In 2013, injuries related to backpack use affected at least 14,000 children, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The school year may have started already, but it’s not too late to teach kids how to wear backpacks properly and reduce injury risk.
Follow these recommendations from the American Chiropractic Association:
- Find the correct fit. The backpack should never be wider or longer than the child’s torso, and the pack should not hang more than 4 inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low puts more weight on the shoulders, causing the child to lean forward when walking.
- Choose appropriate straps. Opt for wide, padded straps that can be adjusted to fit the child’s body. Loose straps that cause the backpack to dangle can cause misalignment and pain in the spine.
- Use both shoulders. Lugging a backpack around by one strap can cause a disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as lower-back pain.
- Pad the back. A backpack with a padded back is more comfortable to wear, and it protects the child from being poked by sharp edges on school supplies (like pencils, rulers, notebooks, etc.) inside the pack.
- Go for a pack with various compartments. Individualized compartments help position the contents most effectively. Make sure pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on the child’s back.
- Assess the contents. If the backpack is too heavy, ask the child’s teacher if it’s okay to leave the heaviest books and electronic items such as iPads and laptop computers at school, and bring home only lighter handout materials.