As families begin their back to school shopping and start to get ready to start the new school year, we can’t forget to pay attention to the small things that can get easily overlooked with respect to our children’s health. In fact, between 30 percent to 50 percent of children have complaints of back pain that may be caused by something you would have never even considered — their backpacks!
Overloaded backpacks in particular, can cause detrimental changes to posture and result in back pain or even numbness and tingling in the arms and legs. Fortunately, there are some simple and quick changes that can be made to dramatically reduce the risk of backpack-pain.
First and foremost, as parents, we need to ensure that the backpacks we purchase for our children fit appropriately. An appropriately fitted backpack rests squarely on the back, 2-3 inches below the shoulders, and hangs no more than 2-3 inches below the waist.
The second consideration is the style of backpack. Despite their recent popularity, “messenger bags,” or any single strapped bag, unevenly distribute the weight across a child’s body. They can change the way a child stands and moves and should ideally be avoided. A backpack with two well-padded straps is much better, but one that rolls may be best of all.
The third important thing to consider is the load. No child should be loaded down with more than 10 percent to 15 percent of their body weight. How you pack that weight makes a difference too, the heaviest items should be loaded first, ensuring that they are closest to the body. If the average weight of your child’s pack exceeds this capacity, think about alternatives to heavy textbooks, like web–based curriculums, or books on CD.
When found and adjusted, the right backpack — fitted correctly and not overloaded — can ensure that its weight is safely and evenly distributed across the child’s back and shoulders. This prevents unwanted stress or pressure to the shoulders or lower back and eliminates the need for the child to hunch forward in order to manage the load and stay upright. Keep in mind that so many of the postural problems seen later in life started as bad habits when we were children — so stay aware of these issues now to ensure a long, back pain-free life.
This article was originally published on HanfordSentinel.com