With the school year quickly approaching, I asked Dr. Kendra from The Family Wellness Centre of Connecticut to visit and talk about backpacks. Here is her visit.
From Dr. Kendra
So quickly, it seems, the summer is nearly over and soon children will be back to school. Along with brand new school clothes, come new backpacks soon to be filled, or over filled with school supplies. It’s safe to say most students won’t be thinking about back and neck pain, but that’s what they risk if their backpacks are too heavy or are not carried properly.
If a backpack is carried improperly or is excessively heavy, it can result in the severe back and neck pain, neck or back injury, poor posture and generalized fatigue. Excessively heavy back packs may harm muscles and joints as well, compounding, serious fatigue to the child’s body. Though books are essential for learning, carrying them, should not affect physical well being.
Studies show an overloaded backpack forces the child to compensate by leaning forward to balance the load, creating potential health problems. Stress and strain to their bodies resulted in over 7,000 emergency room visits yearly approximately half of the injuries reported occurred in children 5 to 14 years old. The prolonged strain of the backpack weight can result in long term injuries.
As a rule the total weight of a backpack should not exceed 10% of a child’s total body weight. So if your child weighs 50 pounds their backpack should not weigh more than 5 pounds- that includes the backpack and all of its contents. Parents can also teach their kids to carry the backpack correctly, by using both the straps.
To reduce injuries or pain resulting from back packs, students can increase muscle strength and endurance, making back pain is less likely. Purchasing a backpack that has straps that go around the hips to keep the weight away from the back, also help balance the “load” and distribute the weight more evenly and also reduce injury. Backpacks should never hang more than four inches below the child’s waistline. Backpacks should be smaller than the child’s back. Straps should be padded and used at all times to avoid an uneven pull on the back.
Proper positioning of a backpack is in the center of the back. Adjust the straps and use the middle waist belt if available to keep the backpack from hanging too low. It should rest between or below the shoulder blades. Using a chest strap helps distribute the weight evenly across the back. Packs should not go below the lumbar spine.
Some easy and practical tips to reduce injury are:
1. Keep extra books and notebooks at home. So there is no need to lift extra weight.
2. Always wear backpack on both the shoulders. Carrying backpack on one shoulder can put the pressure on one side of the body and can cause injury.
3. Wear both straps of the backpack at all times, this distributes the weight load evenly so well aligned posture is encouraged and facilitated.
4. Avoid carrying backpack for a long time.
5. If the backpack is very heavy, use the belt that will save from back problem.
6. Buy a backpack with wide well padded straps, and a chest strap that can distribute equal loads.
7. Use the bag with wheels if backpack is too heavy.
8. Avoid buying a backpack that in itself has a lot of weight.
9. Encourage kids to use lockers at school if available.
10. Lobby for less homework so books can stay at school.
11. Visit your local Chiropractor for wellness checks and symptom management.
12. Watch body mechanics putting on and taking off the backpack. Avoid twisting and bending together at the waist. Swinging the weight to get the backpack on is a sign it is too heavy.
13. Weigh backpacks regularly and “clean them out” often to avoid carrying additional unneeded weight.
The American Occupational Therapy Association has named September 19 as National School Backpack Awareness Day (as well as national talk like a pirate day….arrgh).
For more information on Dr. Kendra visit The Family Wellness Centre of Connecticut