Thomas Perone, DPT, MTC and director of physical therapy at OACM, notes that many kids wear backpacks that don’t fit right and that aren’t packed properly.
“Parents should choose a backpack based on their child’s size and age, not style,” explains Mr. Perone. “Have your child try on backpacks to find one that fits, from just below the shoulders to waist level.”
Did You Know?
- Heavy loads carried by millions of students across the U.S. can cause lower back pain that often lasts into adulthood?
- According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2013, nearly 22,200 strains, sprains, dislocations and fractures from backpacks were treated in hospital Emergency Rooms and physician offices
Tips for Preventing Backpack Injuries
- Show your child how to put the larger, heavier books near the back center of the backpack.
- When fully loaded, the backpack should weigh no more than 10 percent of the child’s weight. For example, an 80-pound child’s backpack should weigh 8 pounds or less. Parents can weigh the backpack and lighten the load if needed.
- Teach your child to put the backpack on by lifting with the legs, not bending at the waist, to avoid pressure on the spine.
- Make sure your child wears both shoulder straps when carrying the backpack so that the weight is evenly balanced.
- Talk with children about the importance of using their locker to store their heavier books as often as possible, so that they don’t overload the backpack.
It’s Not All About Backpacks
Backpacks aren’t the only culprits to back and neck pains and strains. Adults who carry briefcases or suitcases for travel and work are also at risk for back and neck strains and injuries.
Heavy briefcases or bags work over the shoulder can cause uneven distribution of weight across the back, resulting in strains. Likewise, heavy briefcases can cause arm fatigue and places extra pressure on the nerves of the back and neck.
Tips for Carrying Your Briefcase Correctly
- For briefcases with short handles, switch positions frequently to avoid fatigue from muscle overuse.
- For briefcases with shoulder straps, place the strap diagonally across the opposite shoulder to help distribute weight evenly across the back.
- Alternate shoulders by switching the bag from side to side.
- Consider resting your briefcase on the floor, counter, or railing when waiting or standing in line.
- Consider a wheeled briefcase or suitcase if possible.