Back to school means the excitement of picking out a new backpack for many students. But while children and teens concentrate on color and style, parents should also pay attention to size and weight to help their children prevent back pain.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these tips for choosing the right back pack:
• Shoulder straps
Make sure the pack has two adjustable shoulder straps that are wide and padded. Narrow straps may dig into the shoulders which can cause pain and reduce blood flow. Avoid packs with one strap that put all the weight on one shoulder or side of the body.
• Padded back
Padding in the back of the pack can protect your student’s back from being poked by sharp objects or book corners.
• Waist strap
Packs with a strap around the waist help support the weight of the pack more evenly which can reduce back pain.
• Light weight
Make sure the pack itself does not add extra weight to the load.
Buying the right backpack is only the first step in preventing back pain. Wearing the pack correctly can also help prevent injury:
• Use both straps
It doesn’t do any good to buy a pack with two shoulder straps if only one strap is used at a time. Remind your student to wear both shoulder straps to even out the load and prevent muscle strain.
• Keep straps tight
Tighten the shoulder straps so the pack stays close to the body and the pack rests about two inches above the waist.
• Keep the pack organized
Backpacks often come with many compartments and pockets. To reduce back strain, make sure the heaviest items are packed closest to the center of the pack. Heavy items on outside pockets may pull the pack off balance.
• Lighten the load
Load up the back and weigh it, then compare it to your child’s body weight. The backpack should weigh no more than 10-20 percent of the child’s weight. So a 50-pound-child’s pack should weigh no more than 10 pounds. A 100-pound child should carry no more than 20 pounds, etc.