Though school is already underway, the topic of backpacks should be a year round discussion! As a father of three, I have seen the heavy loads our children carry in these packs and the strain it puts on them. So, it is very important that we understand how improper loads and posture can be harmful to our children.
Studies have shown that no more than 10-15% of a child’s body weight should be contained in their backpack. If the child does carry excess weight, it pulls the child backward, forcing them to “balance” the pack by leaning forward. This creates excess pressure, or load, on the spinal column and can create pain and injury. The same can happen if the child carries the backpack on only one shoulder instead of both. Side leaning can also create compressive forces which can cause pain in the spine.
Another consideration to address is the width of the straps of the backpack. If the strap is too narrow, it will dig into the shoulder and can cause nerve compression and pain.
It is important that the student knows how to pick up their backpack properly. As with any heavier object, your child should bend their knees and squat to lift the backpack. They should also avoid twisting too much when they put it on their shoulders. Keeping the backpack centered in their lower back as they put it on will help.
- Wear one strap over each shoulder to divide the weight evenly. If there is a waist strap on the backpack, it should be used. Also, get padded straps strictly for the comfort factor.
- Purchase a quality, lightweight backpack. It should ride comfortably on the waist.
- Strongly encourage your child to make frequent locker stops and not to carry all their books for the day all the time.
- Younger or shorter students should consider a bag with wheels if the school allows it. It is much easier to walk with, but make sure the rules of lifting don’t change.