Kid’s Backpack Safety

10 Tips For Choosing Your Child’s Backpack

Have you ever noticed your child leaving the house for school in the morning looking like Quasimodo?

A book bag or backpack worn improperly or excessive in weight can “put children at increased risk for spinal injury” says Mary Ann Wilmarth, PT, DPT, MS, OCS, director of the transitional doctor of physical therapy degree at Northeastern University in Boston. According to Wilmarth, “the most common ailment among working Americans adults is back pain.”

With as many as 7,500 students across the country being treated for backpack related injuries each year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, clinicians, lawmakers and school boards alike have begun to weigh in on the issue of backpack safety and will determine how to take protective measures so children don’t injure themselves carrying their books. Proposals that have been suggested include school districts issuing separate sets of heavy textbooks for in-school and at-home use, setting maximum weight standards for textbooks, and e-text or online textbook options.

“Heavy backpacks have an obstructive impact on the posture and spinal health of children,” says Dr. Jerry DeGrado, National Backpack Safety Chairman of the Congress of Chiropractic State Associations. Children’s bones and joints are still developing and we don’t want them to put excessive strain on their bodies from carrying too much weight and walking with improper posture. Many health care professionals see the effects of poor posture everyday in clinical practice and if these adults had been taught correct postural alignment when they were kids – they would not be in as much pain as they are now!

Teach your children how to properly ‘strap-up’ in the morning to ensure a reduced risk of back pain.

Here are 10 backpack tips to help straighten out your little ones before they end up in pain!

Pack Selection – What kind of backpack should you get for your child?

1. Despite the ever-growing popularity of single strap backpacks, a double-strapped backpack will actually promote better spinal alignment through a more symmetrical distribution of weight.

2. The more padding on the straps the better, as this will help to relieve pressure on the shoulders and back.

3. Additional straps are a good idea as well; chest and hip belts help transfer some of the weight from the back making carrying around the load more of a group effort if you will.

4. As far as the actual design of the backpack goes, consider a pack with multiple compartments to not only help with weight distribution, but also it is easier to access the contents of the bag.

(An aside note: a bag with reflective material makes the wearer more visible to drivers at night.)

Pack Placement – How should your child wear a backpack?

5. The straps of the pack should be easily adjusted to allow easy on and off; excessive twisting when installing or removing a pack can take a toll on the back after awhile.

6. When wearing the pack, it should rest in the middle and lower part of the back where the muscles are strongest. When worn too low, the body will compensate by leaning forward and taking on an improper posture, which in turn leave muscles fatigued and more vulnerable to injuries.

Pack Stocking – How much weight is too much?

7. In order to prevent risk of injury the weight of a backpack’s contents should not exceed 10 -15% of the wearer’s body weight. For example, a 50-pound child should not have a pack that is more than 5 – 7.5 pounds. It’s pretty easy to exceed that with just a few books and a couple of extra rocks, shoes or toys!

8. A good way to cut down on the load might be to only take supplies that are necessary. That means before each trip, either home or to school, checking and taking out what is not needed.

9. When organizing items in the pack try to keep heavier books and items closer to the back, this will ensure the back muscles aren’t working harder than they need to.

10. If feasible, have two copies of a heavier text (one for school, one for home), so you don’t have to carry so much.

Help your children ‘take a load off’ this school season by teaching them how to think safe when it comes to their backpacks.

If these ergonomic backpack tips and tricks are instilled at a young age, they will become second nature to your loved ones and hopefully help to prevent them from having to seek out a chiropractor or massage therapist for nagging back pain relief!