Backpack awareness: Pack it light, wear it right!
Choosing the right pack for your child is essential
BY KAY ANDERSON
Ministry Rehabilitation Services
With school right around the corner it is time to start getting school supplies, including your child’s backpack.
Does your child complain about an aching back or shoulders, tingling arms or stooped posture? According to The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), about 55-percent of students carry a backpack that is heavier than the recommended guidelines.
Carrying too much weight in a backpack or wearing it the wrong way can lead to pain and problems.
Here are a few simple tips for backpack use:
• Don’t overload backpacks. They shouldn’t weigh more than 10 percent of one’s body weight and the heaviest items should be loaded closest to the child’s back.
• Arrange items in a way that they won’t slide around in the backpack and prevent heavier objects from shifting away from the child’s back.
• Advise students to wear both shoulder straps so that weight is evenly distributed, preventing the child from leaning to one side, which can cause pain and curving of the spine.
• Select a backpack with well-padded shoulder straps. Shoulders and necks have many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and tingling in the neck, arms and hands when too much pressure is applied.
• Adjust straps so the backpack fits snugly to the back to prevent muscle strain, and waist straps should be worn if available to help distribute weight more evenly.
Backpacks come in many different shapes and sizes so finding the proper fit isn’t always as easy as it seems.
When picking out a backpack, the bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back and should never rest more than four inches below the waistline.
It’s also important to teach your child to pick up the backpack by bending and lifting in the knees, instead of the waist, to prevent back injury.
Choosing the right size pack for your child is essential for preventing pain and strain in their backs, necks and shoulders.
Kay Anderson is an Occupational Therapist with Ministry Rehabilitation Services.