Back to school can mean getting back to back pain for many students. Carrying a heavy load to and from school every day can be a big burden. You hate to see your kids struggle, but aside from asking their teacher to give them less homework what can you do? Parents do not need to feel helpless when it comes to lightening their child’s backpack load.
First, let’s access the seriousness of the situation. The US Consumer Product and Safety Commission reported that at least 14,000 children are treated for backpack-related injuries each year! And 7,000 of those injuries were emergency visits. How can you protect your children?
The American Chiropractors Association Backpack Checklist
- Is the backpack the correct size for your child?
- No wider or longer than your child’s torso
- No more than 4 inches below the waistline
- Bigger is not better
- Does the backpack have wide, padded straps?
- Straps should be at least two inches wide
- Does your child use both straps?
- Chest and waist straps are also helpful
- Are the shoulder straps adjustable?
- Top of the backpack should be an inch or two below the base of the neck
- Bottom of the backpack should be just above the waistline
- If it sags too low it can cause strain
- Does it have a padded back?
- Does the backpack have several compartments?
- Keep smaller objects and sharp objects away from your child’s body
- Distribute weight evenly throughout the backpack
- Is the backpack packed properly?
- Pack heaviest objects closer to the body
- The pack should weigh no more than 10% of the child’s body weight
- Is your child handling the backpack properly?
- When the pack is loaded use 2 hands and lift with your knees
Buying the proper backpack can make all of the difference. When looking for a backpack most children look for style, size, and color. Though it is hard to go against fashion, saying no to shoulder bags, messenger bags, briefcases or purses could make all of the difference. Sporting goods stores are great places to purchase backpacks because they know how to properly fit your child in the right pack. Bags with wheels may seem like a great solution but do not forget that they are can be more of a burden when traveling through snow or upstairs.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Recommends:
- A lightweight pack
- o Start out small
- A padded back
- o Take the tension away from your child’s back
- Multiple compartments
- o Distribute weight evenly
- Two wide, padded shoulder straps
- o Takes the tension off shoulders
- o Distribute the weight evenly and more comfortable
- A waist belt
- o Redistribute the weight from your shoulders to the hipbones.
But it’s September so let’s be honest, it is probably too late to buy another backpack. You have already purchased exactly what your child wants. Be wary of these warning signs that your child’s backpack is too heavy. Remember that your child’s pack should be no more than 10% of their body weight.
Warning signs a backpack is TOO heavy
- Change in posture when wearing a backpack
- Struggle to put on the backpack
- Grunts when taking the backpack on and off
- Pain, especially when wearing a backpack
- Tingling or numbness in shoulders, arms or hands
- Red marks on the shoulders
Some people may think that carrying a heavy load would build character. Unless you are talking about the Hunch Back of Notre Dom, then you would be mistaken. Backpacks have not been proven to cause scoliosis but that does not mean that there are not serious side effects to heavy backpacks.
Dangers of a Heavy Pack
- Curvature of Spine
- Shoulder or Neck Injury
- Chronic Back and Neck Pain
- Spine Compression
- Muscle Strain
- Accidental Injuries
These conditions can all range in level of severity and are unnecessary to put a child through. The American Chiropractic Association estimates that 60% of children who carry a backpack have experienced back pain as a result. Do not neglect this problem, because it is likely something your child suffers from today.
What Can Parents Do?
- Buy an appropriate backpack
- Buy the correct size backpack
- Pack the backpack properly
- o Place heavier items against the back
- o Make use of all compartment to distribute weight evenly
- o Make sure the pack is no more than 10% of your child’s body weight
- Be sure your child is using and lifting the pack properly
- Watch for warning signs the pack is too heavy
- Help your kids with homework planning
- o Plan ahead so your child can have a lighter load each night
What Can Kids Do?
- Wear both backpack straps
- Use locker and desk throughout the day
- Do not tote around unnecessary items
- Pack things properly
- Use your knees to lift a heavy pack
An overweight backpack can be a serious pain in the neck. Be sure your children have the right backpack for their size and they know how to use it properly.