Ouch, that has to hurt. You’ve seen school kids carrying their overloaded backpacks, and it’s just painful to watch. Usually, they’re leaning to one side, huge bags hoisted onto single shoulders. If you think that isn’t healthy, you’re right.
Studies have shown that students suffer back pain and injury when their backpacks are too heavy or fit improperly. These super-loads can effect kids’ balance, distort their spines, and make their shoulders round over. But there are steps you can take to help your children be ready for school—and be safe, too.
- Use the right bag.Make sure your child uses a backpack with these features: Lightweight material, such as canvas—not something heavy like leather
Two padded straps
Hip strap or waist belt
- Pack well. Place the heavy objects in the bag first, so they are lower and closer to the body. Then fill the smaller compartments so the load is even. If there are bulky or sharp materials, make sure they aren’t packed so they rub against your child’s back.
- Lift carefully. Make sure your child uses his or her leg muscles when putting on the backpack. Pulling with just the arms is bad for the back.
- Wear it right. Have your child use both straps and places them over both shoulders. The pack needs to be evenly distributed. Fasten the waist belt or hip strap to keep the bag from moving too much.
- Ride high. Help your child adjust the straps so the backpack is snug and rides a few inches above the waist. When packs are too low, they put pressure on the shoulders.
- Stay straight. If you see that your child has to lean forward when carrying the backpack, it’s too heavy. Stop and reconsider all the objects inside. Is everything really necessary?
- Weight it. According to the American Chiropractic Association, your child’s backpack should not weigh more than 5 to 10 percent of his or her body weight. Speak with your child’s teacher if you have concerns about all the books or other materials being carried.
Some kids opt for backpacks that have wheels, but they aren’t always practical and some schools have banned them. Talk to your child and figure out what works.