As children and young adults head back to school, backpack safety should be an important consideration. The wrong backpack can contribute to back pain and long-term joint problems.
According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) young children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations. Many children and young adults carry overweight backpacks, especially now with laptops included.
Allison Harvey, Doctor of Chiropractic and Senior Clinician at Logan University works with young children and treats pediatric patients. “Children and parents should be mindful of the proper mechanics of carrying a backpack and what to look for when you’re buying a backpack. The ultimate goal is to decrease the effects of carrying such a heavy load.” Dr. Harvey said. “I always ask kids to bring their loaded backpack to me to help determine if they are at risk for shoulder and back problems. It is recommended that backpacks account for no more than five to 10 percent of the child’s body weight. So if your child weighs 80 pounds, their backpack should weigh no more than eight pounds.”
Dr. Harvey has some helpful tips for parents and students about the importance of posture and spine health as the school year gets underway and backpacks get heavy. What parents and teachers need to know:
- Choose the right backpack. Wide, adjustable padded shoulder straps are important.
- A backpack with a leather bottom will better hold the weight of backpack contents
- Ask teachers what your student can leave at home or at school, so they don’t have as much to carry back and forth
- Consider a separate tote for carrying laptops and tablets
- Use the provided waist clips and chest clips on your backpack to help distribute weight more evenly
- Backpacks should be snug, not tight and not sagging. The base of a backpack should fall no more than four inches below the belly button
- Put the heaviest items in the back of the backpack and in the lowest compartments
- Find a backpack that offers plenty of compartments and side zippers. This forces more equal weight distribution
- Always use both shoulder straps to carry a backpack
- Schedule a weekly backpack clean-out to ensure your child is not carrying unnecessary weight
Good backpack safety can help prevent discomfort, injuries and potential painful long-term spine issues. For more information, the American Chiropractic Association has more details on backpacks endorsed by the organization.