School is back in session, and the back to school supply aisle is packed with parents collecting all the supplies necessary for their child to succeed this school year. On the top of the list is a new backpack. What might not be on the list is a reminder to choose backpacks wisely. Backpacks are a very common cause of pain and injury for school-age children.
Here are some tips to help your kids avoid backpack injury this fall:
- Bigger is not always better – The bigger the bag, the more room there is to stuff it with unnecessary items and the heavier it will be. Your child’s backpack should be able to cinch snuggly over their shoulders and sit above the waistline. Logos, brands and cute characters are fun, but finding your child a well-constructed backpack should be most important.
- Choose a backpack with multiple pockets – If there is only one pocket all the weight is distributed into one spot and there is a higher chance of the bag being overloaded. When there are multiple pockets, the weight of the bag is less prone to shifting out of balance, which can cause back injuries and even falls.
- Pay attention to the weight of the bag – The backpack, when it is packed, should weigh no more than 10-20% of the child’s body weight – 15% would be a good, safe maximum. No matter the weight on the scale, if your child complains of neck, shoulder or back pain then their backpack is likely too heavy.
- Pack properly – Only pack the bag with things that are absolutely necessary. Pay close attention to how you pack the bag. Weight shifting in the bag can cause a small child to fall over easily. First, pack the heavier items, such as books. Then, evenly distribute the smaller items throughout the various pockets.
- Avoid carrying the backpack on one shoulder – Educate your child on why they should not be carrying their backpack on one shoulder. This will cause stress on their shoulder, in addition to the child holding their shoulder in a lifted position to keep the bag in place. If done on a regular basis, this can lead to shoulder or neck pain. This might look “cool,” but taking care of your body is cooler.
Bonus tip: Shoulder or back pain and neck injuries are all common results of improper backpack safety. But, the most common injury is actually caused by tripping over backpacks. Be sure that your child knows to be aware of their surroundings in order to avoid injury caused by tripping.
Sending your child off to school on their own can be tough, especially for a parent who is aware of all the possible opportunities for injury or accidents. But, by being proactive when it comes to backpack safety and educating your child on taking precautions, your child is sure to have a safe school year. Should your child experience any aches or pains throughout the year, schedule an appointment with one of our experienced physical therapists!