Lightening the Load: Backpack Safety

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Have you ever asked your child if they’re carrying rocks in their backpack after you pick it up? Do you notice your child struggling to put on their backpack, or see them bending forward/ arching their back while carrying it? Has your child ever complained of shoulder, neck, or back pain?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to lighten the load. Experts say your child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10-15% of their bodyweight. Backpacks that are too heavy or worn improperly can cause a lot of problems for kids such as backaches, neck and shoulder pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in the arms and hands.

Before you buy that new trendy backpack your child has been begging for, be on the lookout for these safety features:

  • A lightweight pack that doesn’t add a lot of weight to your child’s load and is appropriate for your child’s size.
  • Wide, padded shoulder straps that won’t dig into your child’s shoulders.
  • A padded back that provides increased comfort and protects your child from being poked from objects being carried inside the pack.
  • A waist belt that helps to distribute the weight more evenly across the body.
  • Multiple compartments that help to distribute the weight more evenly.

Encourage your child to take responsibility for their safety by providing them with these tools:

  • Persuade your child to use their locker frequently throughout the day instead of carrying the entire day’s worth of books in their backpack.
  • Make sure your child doesn’t add extra pounds to their pack by carrying unnecessary items such as laptops, cell phones, and video games.
  • Use all compartments in the backpack to distribute the weight evenly, such as putting heavier textbooks closest to the center of the back.
  • Encourage your child to pick up their backpack the right way to avoid back injuries; bend at the knees and grab the pack with both hands when lifting the pack to the shoulders.
  • Wear the backpack properly by using both shoulder straps over the shoulders and tighten the straps to keep the pack close t to the body; the pack should rest evenly in the middle of the back where the muscles are the strongest.

Above all, urge your child to tell you if they are in pain. Physical therapists are highly-educated, licensed healthcare professional that can help to reduce your child’s pain and restore their normal function.

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