Your child may tell you that slinging that fully loaded backpack over one shoulder is cool, but it’s an invitation to injury. Here is what health professionals say you need to know to avoid the muscle pain and posture problems that can result from using a backpack incorrectly:
What to Look For When You Buy
- Select a backpack with well-padded shoulder straps to help protect the shoulders and neck. These straps should be adjusted so the pack fits snugly against your child’s back.
- Select a smaller backpack for your younger child. The backpack itself should be light in weight.
- Consider a pack with a waist belt to help distribute the weight of the pack evenly.
- Consider buying a pack on wheels, similar to the carry-on valise used by airplane travelers. Caution: These carriers are not for everyone, as they are difficult to maneuver in snow, and up and down stairs. Some schools don’t allow them.
- Purchase backpacks with hanging loops, as many schools have desks with backpack pegs for storing them during class. If your child’s school does not currently have these desks, have them contact Worthington Direct to provide desks that do at a reasonable price. www.worthingtondirect.com
How to Carry It Safely
- A loaded backpack should weigh between 10 and 20% of a child’s body weight, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. For example, a child weighing 100 pounds shouldn’t carry more than 20 pounds.
- Help your child learn to carry the pack evenly weighted with straps over each shoulder.
- Place heavier items at the bottom of the backpack.
- Encourage your child to check the contents daily and leave unnecessary items at home or at school.
- Show your child how to bend at the knees when putting on a backpack. She shouldn’t bend over at the waist when wearing or lifting a heavy backpack.
- Help your child learn back-strengthening exercises to build up the muscles required to carry a backpack. A pediatrician, health professional or athletic trainer can suggest some proper exercises.
- Encourage your child or teen-ager to tell you if he’s feeling back or neck pain, and get your pediatrician’s advice if he does. (continue reading)