With the new school year in session, it is important to discuss the importance of backpack safety. As a chiropractor one of the most common problems 1 see in my office are back pain, neck and shoulder pain, and headaches. Over the years it is not surprising that patients with these types of problems seem to be getting younger and younger. One of the most obvious reasons for early onset of neck and back pain is the increasing weight and size of children's backpacks.
The rapid growth and development of the musculoskeletal system in children makes this topic extremely important. Posture is an important role in backpack safety.
Follow these guidelines from the American Chiropractic Association to ensure a proper fit of your children's backpack:
- Choose a backpack that is the proper size for your child's age and size. Packs come in different sizes for different ages, and selecting a pack that is too large will encourage the child to carry more weight than which is recommended.
- Buy a pack that has well-padded shoulder straps which make the back more comfortable and avoid the straps from digging into your child's shoulders. Also, consider buying a pack with an adjustable chest/waist strap. Proper use of a chest/waist strap can help distribute the weight of the pack off of the shoulders and lower back.
- Adjust the shoulder straps on the pack so the backpack fits closely to your child's body. Loose straps can cause the pack to dangle, leading to spinal misalignment and pain. Also, the bottom of the backpack should sit at your child's belt line.
- Make sure your child's packs the heaviest objects such as textbooks as close to their body or back as possible. This will help keep the load closer to their center of gravity, producing less strain on the lower back.
- Encourage your child to wear the backpack with both straps. Lugging the backpack around can cause a disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as lower back pain.Another important thing to check is the overall weight of the backpack. Your child's backpack should never weigh more than 10-15% of their bodyweight. An example would be if your child weights 100 lbs their backpack should not weigh more than 15 lbs. lf you find your child is routinely carrying a pack that weighs more than this recommended limit, work with your child's teacher to see what can be done to help lighten the load. Recently many books have become available online to help ease the load.