Back to School Without Injury from Backpacks
With back to school being just around the corner it is important to make sure your child has a healthy start. When buying your child’s backpack there are several tips you need to know to help prevent injury to your child’s shoulder, neck, or back. One of the most important tips is the weight of the backpack.
Did you know?
It is recommended that a child only carry 10 to 15% of their body weight in their backpack?
Examples: 40 pound child = 6 pound backpack max
60 pound child = 9 pound backpack max
80 pound child = 12 pound backpack max
100 pound child = 15 pound backpack max
If your child is carrying more than the recommended weight then your child is more prone to injury. The excessive load can create a force to your child’s spine that will make him/her compensate and compress the spine unnaturally, leading to potential shoulder, neck and back pain.
There are several causes of shoulder, neck and back pain with carrying backpacks. Some possible cause are:
• Wearing backpacks over just one shoulder
o This can cause the child to lean to one side to offset the extra weight
• Too heavy of a load
o Leads to poor posture and excessive load to spine
• Backpacks with tight, narrow straps
o Straps can dig into the shoulders and interfere with circulation and nerves -may result in tingling, numbness, and weakness in the arms and hands
• Backpack doesn’t fit child properly
• Lifting backpack improperly
When you go out to buy your child’s backpack this summer consider the following tips before your purchase:
1. Start with a lightweight backpack made of lightweight material.
2. Make sure the shoulder straps are wide and padded. Wide, padded straps provide support and prevent the straps from becoming too tight or digging into your child’s shoulders. The straps should be snug, but not so tight that they cause discomfort.
3. The back should also be padded. Padding that sits against your child’s back will provide additional support and prevent discomfort.
4. Look for a backpack with a waist strap. A waist strap holds the contents closer to your child’s back, which will decrease the load and help him or her maintain balance.
5. Multiple compartments are a plus. If your child’s backpack has multiple compartments, it will be easier to evenly distribute the weight of the items inside. The heaviest items should be packed low and toward the center of the bag.
6. Both straps should be worn at all times. Make sure your child is always wearing both straps. Wearing both straps can also help distribute the weight more evenly and prevent your child from leaning to one side.
7. Do not overload! Remember the backpack should be no more than 15% of your child’s body weight. Anything more than that can force children to slouch or hunch to compensate for the extra weight. Remove any items that are unnecessary, and encourage your child to carry heavier items in their arms, if possible.
8. Make sure the backpack is the correct size for your child. The backpack should not be wider or longer than your child’s torso and should not hang more than 4 inches below his or her waist.
It is important as parents that we educate and instruct our children in backpack safety. Involve your child by weighing your child and then weighing the backpack. Figure out together what 15% of their body is. Then show them what that weight feels like in a backpack so they can understand what too heavy of a load is and how it can vary with the fit of the backpack. Encourage your child to use their locker throughout the day instead of carrying the entire days worth of books in the backpack. Help prioritize with your child items that are needed to be carried in the backpack vs. items that can stay home or be left at school. Instruct your child in how to pick up their backpack. As with any heavy weight, they should bend at the knees and grab the pack with both hands bringing their backpack close to their body when lifting a backpack to the shoulders.
We hope you found these tips helpful and help you get off to a healthy start to the school year!