It’s back-to-school time — time for new clothes, new pencils, new notebooks and new backpacks. But, although backpacks are now ubiquitous in schoolyards everywhere, they can also pose a serious health threat. Dr. smith wants to ensure that patients know the best backpack products, weight guidelines and safety habits for a healthy and pain-free school year.
Backpack safety is especially vital because research shows that “children who experience back pain are at a heightened risk of having back pain as adults. The economic impact may be significant, because back pain is a major cause of disability in adults.” (Clin Orthop Relat Res 2003;409:78-84.)
When purchasing a backpack for your child:
- Take care that the size of the pack is in relation to the child’s frame.
- Choose padded shoulder straps.
- Choose waist belts that strap around the hips to provide extra support and distribute the load to the pelvis and hips, which are stronger than the midback.
How you pack and carry the backpack is also vital.
- Lighten the load. Backpacks should be limited to no more than 10 percent of the carrier’s body weight.
- Limit backpack time. Encourage youngsters only to carry packs when necessary.
- Use both shoulder straps and hip belts.
- Practice packing. Always load the heaviest items closet to the back, nearest the center of gravity.
- Carry the backpack low. The old school of thought, that backpacks should be carried high on the back, is now refuted by current research. Dr. Smith explains to patients that it is now suggested that backpacks be centered at the waist or hip level, to allow the pelvis to carry the load, rather than the neck and shoulders.
Tips to prevent backpack-related pain:
Dr. Barbara Smith
Chiropractor and Health Educator