It's that time of the year when backpacks are dashing left and right down the halls of the school, in and out of the car and to and from home. Every backpack is different ranging in various colors, shapes, sizes, and patterns to match your child's favorite movie (that day), or TV show characters. I don’t know how many times I walk past the end caps and isles of children’s backpacks at Target and Walmart and wonder if parents know what to look for in a properly fitted backpack for their child? When used properly, backpacks can be incredibly handy. When worn correctly, the weight of the backpack is evenly distributed across the body, however, if they’re too heavy, too large for your child, or are used incorrectly, it can result in back pain, strained necks, and joints. This applies to parents as well!
It is recommended to carry no more than 10% of your total body weight in your backpack but many carry more than that. If a child is carrying a locker’s worth in their backpacks, the weight can pull a child backward resulting in the need to compensate by bending forward or unleveling their hips. This can make the spine compress unnaturally.
Do you know that teenager you see walking down the street from school wearing their backpack over one shoulder? As cool as they think it looks or seems easier, two strapped backpacks are the safest choice without having to lean to one side to even out the balance. Wider straps help from cutting off circulation which could lead to numbness and tingling in the arms and hands.
What can we do as adults and/or parents to help our children?
*Encourage kids to use their locker or desk often throughout the day instead of carrying the entire days’ worth of books and supplies in their bag.
*Make sure kids don't tote unnecessary items such as laptops, cellphones, and toys. These items can add extra pounds to a backpack.
*Encourage kids to bring home only what is needed for homework or studying each night. This will lighten the child’s load!
*Ask about homework! A heavier backpack on Fridays might mean that a child is procrastinating doing their homework until the weekend, making for an unnecessarily hefty backpack.
You may need to adjust your kids' backpacks and/or reduce how much they carry if they:
*struggle to get the backpack on or off
*have back pain
*lean forward to carry the backpack (countering the weight)
Picking up the backpack the right way can help kids avoid back injuries. As with any heavy weight, they should bend at the knees and grab the backpack with both hands
when lifting a backpack to their shoulders. Use all of the backpack's compartments, and putting heavier items, such as textbooks, closest to the center of the back.
If you have any other questions about backpack safety feel free to call us at 262-796-5108 or come over for a visit. We can provide demonstrations to better the safety and health of your child’s spine! Also, you can watch Dr. Nicole demonstrate backpack wearing on Facebook @KnappChiro.