It’s back to school time for all the young scholars and with it comes the daily ritual of lugging school supplies around in a backpack. You may not realize it but ill fitting backpacks can put a significant amount of stress on your child’s body.
The long-term stress of wearing a poorly designed and/or excessively heavy backpack can lead to a back aches, neck stiffness, burning shoulders, headaches, tingling in the arms/hands, fatigued muscles and a stooped posture. These aches and pains can be a major distraction to your child’s focus in the school room, hamper their enjoyment of everyday childhood activities and increase the likelihood of future back problems later in life.
Loading a Backpack
- Your child’s backpack should not exceed 15% of their body weight.
- Load the heaviest items closest to your child’s back. Pack the bumpy or sharp edged items furthest away from the back. Arrange the school gear so it won’t shift and slide as they walk.
- Many parents are shocked to discover just how heavy their child’s backpack truly is. To calculate how much the pack weighs have your child stand on a weigh scale with and without the pack on and subtract the difference.
- On heavy backpack load days have your child hand carry a heavy book or item.
- Pack up the bag on a table or ledge that is waist high as opposed to leaning forward over a pack on the floor.
Wearing the Backpack
- Always use the two straps to spread out the weight evenly. Carrying a heavy load with one strap can lead to unwanted curvatures and abnormali
- ties in the developing spine and musculature.
- Make sure the straps are well padded (2 inches wide) to protect the blood vessels and nerves in the neck and shoulder region. Prolonged pressure in these areas can lead to pain and tingling in the neck, arms and hands.
- Adjust the straps so that pack fits snugly against your child’s back. You should be able to slide one hand between the pack and your child’s back. Loose packs can pull your child back causing muscle strains.
- The back of the pack should never rest more than 4 inches below the waist line.
- Wearing a waist strap can take as much as 50 – 70% of the weight off the shoulders and spine helping to distribute the weight more evenly.
- Teach your child to put on their backpack properly. Place the pack on a table and do up both straps before moving as opposed to twisting and reaching back or swinging the pack around the shoulder.
It is important to be aware of your child’s daily burden because it could be detracting from their school experience. If they complain of back pain, headaches, numbness or weakness in their arms seek help to ease their discomfort and prevent future problems.