Your Child's Backpack Could Cause Injury

Back pain is one of the most common medical conditions. Aches and pains in the back tend to be associated with adults, but children and teenagers can experience muscle strain, bad posture, pain and even bad circulation from school backpacks that are too heavy or worn incorrectly.

Doctors recommend that kids carry no more than 10 percent of their body weight in their backpacks. Depending on whether or not your child has access to a locker during their school day, they may be carrying a lot more than that in books, school supplies and personal items. Too much weight incorrectly placed on your child’s shoulders can force them into an unnatural posture leading to shoulder, neck or pack pain. 

Best Practices for Wear
A lot of discomfort resulting from backpack use happens when your child does not use the backpack correctly. Parents should look out for the following to ensure their child’s back is safe:
  • Make sure your child is using both shoulder straps. Having the backpack hang from just one shoulder creates an unequal distribution of weight across the back, which can lead to muscle spasms and low-back pain.
  • Make sure your child knows how to adjust the straps of their backpack. Shoulder straps should be tight enough so that the backpack fits close to the back. If the backpack hangs low, it can cause spinal misalignment and pain. 
  • Encourage your child to carry a few items in their hands if you notice them struggling with putting on or taking off their backpack. This can help ease the load on the back. 
  • Encourage your child to map out their day as efficiently as possible so they’re able to drop off or exchange heavier books. Working efficiently in study halls can also allow them to cross some homework off their list to minimize the amount of work that needs to travel to and from school. 

What to Shop For
When shopping with your child for a new backpack, look for options that are appropriate for the size of your child. A size-appropriate backpack should never be wider or longer than your child’s torso and shouldn’t hang more than four inches below their waist. The best options are ones with wide, padded shoulder straps, padded backs and waist straps. They should be lightweight on their own and have more than one compartment to better distribute weight.

While rolling backpacks are a good alternative to get the weight off your child’s back, they don’t get a strong endorsement from safety organizations that consider them to be a potential tripping hazard when pulled through bustling school hallways. They’re recommended only for children who may not be physically able to carry a backpack.  

Listen to your child if they express pain, numbness or tingling in their back, and talk to your doctor if the pain persists after correcting the size and fit of your child’s backpack. To request an appointment with your Primary Care physician call 1-800-INSPIRA or schedule an appointment online.

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