Is your child sporting a brand new backpack for school slung over one shoulder? Backpacks have become as common as pencils and chalkboards in schools all across the country, but heavy backpacks have been attributed to low back pain in school age children. Twelve pounds in an average child’s backpack slung over one shoulder times 10 improper lifts per day can cause serious posture problems and misalignments in growing bones; even repeated improper lifting of a lightweight pack can wreak havoc on your child’s spine.
The lifting technique is an essential, yet often over-looked, aspect of backpack safety. Here’s the correct way to lift a pack: (Courtesy of Backpack Safety America)
Face the backpack before you lift it; bend at the knees; using both hands, check the weight of the pack; lift with your legs, not with your back; carefully slip on one shoulder strap and then the other one; never sling the pack onto one shoulder.
Backpack features can also help decrease you child’s risk of lower back pain and injuries. Make sure the pack is sturdy and appropriately sized. Some manufacturers offer lightweight packs that have shorter back lengths and widths to prevent slippage, for ages 5 to 10.
Consider more than looks in a backpack. An ill-fitting pack can cause back pain, nerve impingement or muscle strain. To help distribute the load, look for packs with padded shoulder straps and waist straps. Show the child how to evenly distribute the weight of the pack, and do insist that the pack be carried on both shoulders.
Avoid overloading by prioritizing items your child puts in the backpack. The weight of the pack should not exceed 15 percent of the child’s body weight.