Over 79 million students across the US carry backpacks. With the fall semester in full swing children are once again carrying heavy loads and filling their backpacks with homework and school supplies. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, over half of students that carry backpacks are wearing them incorrectly or carrying backpacks over the recommended weight. These heavy loads carried by students can cause lower back pain that can persist through adulthood. Here are some tips and tricks to avoid the pain and injury of an improperly worn backpack:
- The weight of the backpack should be no more than 10% of your child’s weight.
- Utilize different compartments and pockets in order to distribute the weight evenly.
- heavier items should be stored in the back center of the backpack
- lighter items should be stored closer to the front of the backpack
- Arrange school supplies in a manner that does not allow materials to slide around
- Check what your child is bringing to and from school. Make sure all items are necessary for the day.
- If a backpack is too heavy, your child can carry items like a book out of the backpack. If your child’s backpack is too heavy on a daily basis, use a rolling backpack if the school allows it.
- Always use both straps, and make sure to select a backpack with padded shoulder straps
- The backpack should not extend past your child’s shoulders, or below the top of the hip-bones
- Wearing the waist straps helps to more evenly distribute the weight of the backpack
- Adjust the shoulder straps to ensure the backpack rests securely against the back
- Warning signs that the backpack is too heavy:
- Pain when your child is wearing their backpack
- Tingling or numbness in their arms or legs when wearing the backpack
- Your child has difficulty putting on or taking off the backpack
- Check to see if your child has red marks on their shoulders once they take their backpack off
- Any change in posture when wearing the backpack
When purchasing a backpack make sure your child tries it on just like they would try on clothes or shoes! The size and fit of a backpack is an important piece in order to reduce the risk of injury. If you would like more information or backpack safety tips visit: www.aota.org/backpack
Remember that September 20th is AOTA’s National School Backpack Awareness Day!