Backpacks: Pack Them Light, Wear Them Right

Backpacks: Pack Them Light, Wear Them Right
September 4, 2011 lghwell

With Labor Day upon us, many parents (and children) are thinking about backpacks for school. The following is an article submitted by Dr. Elliot Suarez, a pediatrician with Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates on how to pack backpacks light and wear them right this school year:

With school back in full swing, backpacks are a practical way for children and teens to carry books and supplies back and forth to school. They are designed to distribute the weight of the load among some of the body’s strongest muscles, and when used correctly, backpacks can be useful equipment.

Unfortunately, many parents and children are unaware of the potential dangers of improperly worn backpacks.  Backpacks can be a leading cause of back and shoulder pain for millions of children and adolescents.   Studies show that young children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations, and the use of heavy backpacks is a major factor. 

Doctors and physical therapists recommend that kids carry no more than 10% – 15% of their body weight in their backpacks. For example, a child weighing 50 lbs should carry no more than 7.5 lbs in their backpack, and a child weighing 130 lbs should carry no more than 19.5 lbs. However, studies show that over half of all students carry considerably more than these recommendations each day.

Parents may need to adjust their child’s backpack and/or reduce how much the child is carrying if they see their child struggling to get the backpack on and off or they lean forward to carry the backpack. Most importantly, parents should never ignore any complaints of back pain from their child.

Here are some additional tips for proper selection and wear of backpacks:

  • Use backpacks with two wide, padded shoulder straps. Backpacks with one strap that runs across the body cannot distribute the weight evenly
  • Shoulder straps should also be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child’s body. The backpack should be evenly centered in the middle of your child’s back
  • School backpacks come in different sizes for different ages. Choose the right size pack for your child’s back as well as one with enough room for necessary school items
  • Size is important. The backpack should never be wider or longer than your child’s torso, and the pack should not hang more than 4 inches below the waistline
  • Children should use all possible compartments to distribute weight. Heaviest items should go closest to children’s backs
  • If possible, encourage your child to make frequent trips to his or her locker between classes to reduce the number of books in the backpack at one time

To see the full article on the Chelmsford Patch, please click here.

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