6 Easy Backpack Safety Tips
Over the past few years as the kids return to school, we at Back In Motion Sarasota Physical Therapy are noticing something “not so good”. We are seeing more & more children suffering from low back pain, upper back pain and neck pain much sooner than previous generations. One substantial and almost always common factor seems to be a large heavy backpack. Many parents are not educated on the variety of injuries that these heavy backpacks can be responsible for.
According to a previously released report, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) reported greater than 50% of school kids surveyed carry backpacks that are overweight and could contribute to injury.
When a backpack has been overstuffed with several books &/or not worn right, the pressure on the spine spikes up substantially. This can cause the child to lean in a forward flexed position to compensate. This posture can eventually contribute to shoulder, neck, upper trunk &/or low back pain.
6 Easy Backpack Safety Tips Save Your Child’s Spine:
- Essentials Only: Be sure to enforce a “daily cleanout”. If you do not need to bring the item back and forth from school to home, then don’t.
- Use Both Straps: Educate your kids to utilize both straps, & to not sling the backpack over one shoulder. This aids in even weight distribution.
- Be Aware of the Posture of Your Child: If you notice any posture abnormalities such as excessive forwards or sideways lean it is possible that the weight of the backpack excessive. If your child complains of pain, pins and needles sensation, or lack of sensation, call Back In Motion Sarasota Physical Therapy right away.
- Proper Backpack: Use a backpack with several different sections and pockets to keep the weight more evenly distributed. There should be two wide & well-padded straps that are comfortable and does not “pinch” the arm pit region when the backpack is fully weighted. When only one of the two straps are used or if a bag has only one strap, the weight distribution is not even, causing the child to lean forward or to the side. When using the 2 straps, be sure to adjust both of them so the backpack is close to the body and rests in the middle of the back. Avoid having the backpack too low on the lumbar region (low back region) or below the belt.
- Proper Lifting Technique: No twisting while lifting. Use the large muscles of the buttocks and legs while lifting and avoid stressing the smaller muscles in your low back. Bend at the knees. Educate your child.
- How Much is Too Much? Physicians & PTs advise that the weight of a backpack be 15% or less of their body weight. If your kid weighs one hundred pounds, the backpack shouldn’t weigh greater than 15 pounds to promote injury prevention. 15% is the maximum weight and it is always better to be lower than 15%.
Backpacks can be purchased in a variety of brand names, shapes, sizes, and colors. Backpacks can be a lot of fun when picking out. My 4 year old son likes superheroes on his backpack (Batman is his favorite). When backpacks are compared to traditional one strapped bags such as purses & laptop bags, backpacks are more ergonomically sound:
- The weight of a backpack is supported by the bigger & stronger muscles of the body such as the back and the abs.
- When carried appropriately and with use of both straps, there is even distribution of the weight of the bag, unlike a heavy purse or laptop bag.
When used correctly, backpacks can be very helpful. When used incorrectly, backpacks can stress or strain your child’s musculature & joints and can contribute to painful conditions/postural problems if they are overweight.
We as Physical Therapists are experts at ergonomics, body mechanics, posture, core stability and pain relief. If you are not sure if your child is wearing their backpack with a “correct” technique, call us at (941)925-2700 & we can educate you and your child on the right way to carry a backpack, safe posture and exercises for a healthy, stable core.
Your Child Will Thank You…
Stop your child’s pain today. Shoulder discomfort, neck/low back pain and postural problems from the use of an overly weighted backpack is not only ‘fixable’, but more importantly is preventable. Call Back In Motion Sarasota Physical Therapy today at (941)925-2700 and we will perform a comprehensive assessment & help your child avoid discomfort or injury. We will also create and teach the most effective exercises and activities to help help your child to develop strength, improve posture, & get back to normal, pain-free life. Get your children to take care of their bodies starting at a young age. They will thank you one way or another years later.