Backpacks are a convenient and practical way for kids to carry books and other school supplies to and from school and from class to class. However, an overloaded backpack or one that is worn incorrectly can cause a number of physical issues including shoulder, neck and back pain. Fortunately, there are things a child can do to prevent these problems.
Backpack Safety Tips for Your Children
The amount of weight a particular child can carry comfortably in a backpack varies based on their build and other factors. However, as a general rule, the maximum weight of a backpack should be no more than 10-20% of the child’s body weight. For example, using 15% as the target, a child who weighs 50 pounds should carry a backpack that weighs 7.5 pounds or less (.15 x 50).
10 Tips for Avoiding Backpack Injuries
It is important to keep in mind that backpack “injuries” are, in fact, injuries. They are no less significant than a sports injury, so steps are taken to avoid them are worth the effort.
Below are some things you and your child can do to prevent avoidable pain and stiffness.
- Purchase a backpack that has wide, well-padded shoulder straps to distribute pressure across the shoulders and collarbone.
- Select a backpack made from strong but lightweight material. For example, nylon is lighter than canvas or leather.
- Use both shoulder straps, rather than carrying the backpack slung over just one shoulder.
- If the backpack has a waist strap, use it to keep it from shifting.
- The first time the backpack is worn, adjust it so it rests approximately two inches above the waist and set the straps to maintain that position.
- Pack heavy items so they are centered in the backpack.
- Consider a backpack with wheels.
- Encourage your child to leave books in a locker or other storage space until they are needed.
- Teach your child to bend their knees rather than bending at the waist when lifting a heavy backpack.
- Have your child review the contents of their backpack regularly and remove anything (past assignments, etc.) that is not needed.
Backpack injuries are not only painful, but they can also be a distraction from a student’s studies and can keep them out of other activities. Take action to prevent sore, stiff muscles so your child can be happy, healthy and focused.