Is Your Child’s Backpack a Health Hazard?
Some Red Flags and Safety Tips
As practical as backpacks are, as indispensable as they are to today’s educational experience, they can also be health hazards, and cause serious chiropractic injury that can linger for decades.
Every year, nearly 14,000 children are treated for neck, back and shoulder pain related to backpacks—more than a third of them in emergency rooms. And no wonder: each item typically stashed into a backpack—lunch, textbooks, binders, school supplies—weighs an average of 3.5 pounds. Do the math and compare the total as a ratio to your child’s weight, and you begin to appreciate the problem.
Here are some of the signs that your child’s backpack may be too heavy… some of the dangers that can present… and some tips for avoiding them:
A Backpack is too Heavy if …
- Your child grunts when putting it on or taking it off;
- He/she leans head-forward when carrying it, rather than with upright posture;
- The straps leave red marks on his/her shoulders;
- He/she complains that shoulders, arms or fingers are “falling asleep.”
A Backpack that is too Heavy Can …
- Tighten shoulder joints, alter upper biomechanics and create strain;
- Create soreness in the hips if the child is leaning forward to compensate for backward pull;
- Create knee pain because of a shift in walking pattern;
- Alter posture sufficiently to result in lower and mid-back pain and muscle tightness.
What You Should Do to Minimize the Risks…
- Choose backpacks expressly designed for kids, made with more lightweight fabric;
- Select backpacks with multiple compartments that will help leverage the weight of contents. Make sure heavier items are packed lower and closer to the body;
- Be sure that the backpack is the length of your child’s torso and the bottom is at least two inches below the waist;
- Adjust the shoulder straps so that the weight of the backpack is distributed evenly;
- Have your child use the waist strap as well as the shoulder straps;
- Make sure that the loaded backpack weighs no more than 10-15% of your child’s total weight.