Back to school......Backpack safety?!
The fall can be an exciting time for children as they head back to school. This is a time where they get new clothes, supplies, shoes, and today's topic....a backpack. Although these storage items are very handy throughout the year, they can also pose a great deal of problems for our youth. It is important that parents (and college students) are aware of the stresses backpacks can place on our bodies, and more speficially our spines. Our spine is made up of multiple vertebrae that join together with fluid filled discs that act as shock absorbers as we perform daily tasks. These joints are the same joints that become loaded down when our children place that heavy backpack over their shoulders. You can think of it as loading a small pickup with three, one ton steel beams....can you imagine how stressed those rear shocks would be?! The stress on the spinal joints is not the entire problem however. When backpacks become too heavy for a child, they tend to lean forward, rounding their shoulders and bending at the hip in order to compensate for the increased load pulling them backwards. Or, they feel as though it is "cooler" to only use one strap over their shoulder and in turn, also compensate by leaning to the right or left. These motion patterns create bad postural habits and poor body biomechanics. The weight is now not only stressing the spine, but also the hips, knees/ankles, and the soft tissues trying to support those areas!
A few tips to help you buy and fit your child with the proper backpack:
- the backpack should not exceed 1/3 the height of the child
- make sure the straps are adjustable. They should be adjusted to keep the backpack snug to the middle portion of the childs back. (the pack should not hang into the small of the back, nor should it be loose, allowing it to sway back and forth)
- Use both shoulder straps!! (find a backpack with wider straps to properly distribute the weight across the shoulder without "digging in", preventing nerve entrapment and lack of circulation)
- It is recommended that the total backpack weight should not exceed 10-15% of the childs body weight.
- avoid filling the backpack with unnecessary items (which can often times be left in the backpack the entire school year without knowing they are there.)
- encourage your child to "stand up straight" and have an upright posture!
Fitting your child with the right backpack and avoiding excessive weight over their shoulders can significantly decrease the amount of back pain and improper postural habits they experience. Take the time to do it right!! If your child is experiencing back pain, or if you have any questions or concerns about backpack safety, don't hesitate to contact us through our "contact us" tab, or give us a call to schedule an appointment. We are more than willing to help!
Dr. Lucas Marz