Backpack Safety For Healthy Backs
September is back to school time. As you are purchasing the final supplies and filling your student’s backpack, keep in mind the effect a heavy backpack has on your student’s spine. According to Dr. Ty Hall, “It’s cute when the backpack is as big as the kid, but it’s not good for them. Pay attention when they are leaning forward or rounding their shoulders in an effort to support their load.” Your child may need to wear a backpack every day, but there are things you can do to ensure backpack safety.
Students in preschool and Kindergarten often wear backpacks that are almost as big as they are. It is important to keep them fitted snugly to their backs so it doesn’t cause a tripping hazard. Young children should carry a light load. Limit the amount of heavy books and supplies that they carry to and from school to improve backpack safety.
As kids grow up, their workload and backpack load increases. Often teenagers are carrying multiple heavy textbooks in their backpack. College students may also have a laptop that they transport to and from classes. All of this weight puts a strain on their spines.
According to the American Chiropractic Association, backpack weight should not exceed 5 to 10 percent of your child’s weight. That means a child in early elementary school should aim for a backpack weight of 5 pounds or less. A college student weighing 200 pounds may be able to consistently carry 20 pounds, but the average student’s backpack should be much lighter. Use your student’s weight as a guide for their backpack weight.
Some ways to manage the weight of your backpack:
- Use online textbooks when possible.
- Keep your textbooks at home instead of carrying them back and forth.
- Choose a smaller backpack.
- Empty and clean out backpacks regularly.
- Have a separate bag for gym clothes or extracurricular activities.
- Arrange heavier items on the bottom of the bag.
While it may look “cool” to casually sling a backpack over one shoulder, it isn’t good for your spine. Doing this puts more weight on one side of your body than the other. That pulls your posture sideways as well. Another trend is to keep the straps loose so the backpack falls lower on your back. This throws off your posture because the weight of the backpack is not evenly distributed across your back.
To help maintain good posture with a backpack:
- Use both straps – one on each shoulder.
- Adjust straps so the backpack fits snugly against your body.
- The bottom of the backpack should be no more than four inches below your waistline.
- Bend and lift with your knees when picking up your backpack.
Signs to Watch For
As the school year progresses, pay attention to complaints from your student that may be caused by carrying too much weight or not wearing their backpack properly.
- Numbness or tingling in their arms or legs.
- Tightness in shoulders and neck.
- Neck pain.
- Back pain.
Any of these symptoms may be caused by their backpack. “If you’re looking at your child and it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t right,” says Dr. Ty Hall. If you think the backpack might be a problem, bring it into your chiropractic appointment. Dr. Ty can look at their posture with the backpack on and help you find ways to alleviate the symptoms. Regular chiropractic adjustments can help keep your child’s spine in alignment. To schedule an appointment, contact us.