Backpacks come in all colors and styles. They let kids express their individual sense of style and when used correctly they’re handy throughout the school day. But as practical and necessary as backpacks are to kids in school, they strain the joints and muscles. They can even cause back pain and serious injury to the shoulders and neck if they are too heavy. Doctors and physical therapists recommend that kids carry no more than 10% to 15% of their body weight in their backpacks. But many carry a lot more than that.
When it comes to staving off injury, choosing a well made backpack is half the battle. Look for the following to choose the right backpack:
- Lightweight: Be choosey with materials and get one that doesn’t add a lot of weight to your child’s load.
- Two wide, padded shoulder straps: Straps that are too narrow can dig into the shoulders and cause pain.
- A padded back: It not only provides increased comfort, but prevents sharp objects like pencils from poking your child in the back
- A waist belt: helps to distribute the weight evenly across the body
- Many compartments: to help distribute the weight throughout the pack
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons suggests the following to prevent injury when using a backpack:
- Always use both shoulder straps when carrying the backpack. The correct use of both of the wide, well-padded shoulder straps will help distribute the weight of the backpack across the child’s back.
- Tighten the straps to keep the load closer to the back.
- Organize the items: pack heavier things low and towards the center.
- Pack light, removing items if the backpack is too heavy. Carry only items required for the day, and if possible, leave unnecessary books at home or school.
- Lift by bending at the knees when picking up a backpack.
Encourage your child to tell you about numbness, tingling, or discomfort in the arms or legs. If the backpack fits poorly or has too much weight, it can cause complications. If your child is carrying all their books, suggest that they stop at their locker throughout the day to drop off or exchange heavier books.
If your child or teenager’s back pain persists, consider reaching out to the school, other parents, and/or a medical professional for help. You can always call us at (662) 348-3342 to schedule an appointment.