health: Find the right backpack and teach children the proper way to wear them to avoid pain or injuries
With summer in full swing, it is hard to believe that back to school shopping is just around the corner. Purchasing a new backpack is often a part of this shopping frenzy and deserves careful consideration. Improper backpack use can lead to back injuries in children, which may cause muscle strains, pain, and even curvature of the spine.
These backpack recommendations were made by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Occupational Therapy Association to help ensure that your child’s physical health is protected while they work towards academic success.
To help identify the ideal backpack for your child, consider the following characteristics:
- Lightweight: Light materials, including canvas, are better than heavy materials, such as leather, because they help to lighten the weight that must be carried.
- Double shoulder straps and waist belt: One shoulder strap can put a large amount of stress on the neck, back, and shoulder, while double shoulder straps and waist belts help to distribute the weight over larger muscle groups.
- Padding: Wide shoulder straps and the surface against your child’s back should be padded for comfort and safety.
- Multiple compartments: Weight should be distributed throughout various backpack compartments to help prevent back strain.
- Rollers: Backpacks on rollers are available but need to follow the recommended weight limitations. as these bags must often be carried up stairs and through areas where it is difficult for the rollers to function properly.
After a safe backpack has been purchased, consider the following additional AAP and AOTA recommendations that were made regarding proper use:
- Weight limit: Children should not carry more than 10-15 percent of their body weight on their back. For example, a 60-pound child should not carry more than six to nine pounds. If your child leans forward or his back arches when wearing the pack, the weight of the bag likely exceeds this limit.
- Weight distribution: To help distribute the weight across all back and abdominal muscles, straps should be worn over both shoulders, and weight in the backpack should be divided among the various compartments. Remind your child to use both straps so that the weight is not distributed to one side of their body (which can lead to spinal curvature).
- Strap tightening: Shoulder and waist straps should be adjusted appropriately to make sure that the heavy load is secure to the back and lies approximately two inches above the waist.
- Leg lifting: Heavy objects, including backpacks, should be lifted with the legs, by bending both knees, to help prevent back injury.
Alissa Brekken, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician at IHA Pediatric Healthcare - Canton. Dr. Brekken has clinical interest in newborn care, preventive medicine and childhood obesity. IHA Pediatric Healthcare - Canton is located at 49650 Cherry Hill Road, Suite 210, Canton, MI 48187. She can be reached at 734-398-7899. For more information or to read more posts on the IHA Cares Blog, visit www.ihacares.com.