Does your son grunt every time he takes his backpack off? Does your daughter have to lean forward to support the weight? Are they both complaining of back pain?

If you answered yes to any of the above, chances are you may want to take a closer look at their backpacks.

Much better than purses or other bags, backpacks use the strongest muscles in the body to support the weight of the bag and evenly distribute it across the body. But if not used right, backpacks can still cause problems.

Here are some important guidelines to follow with your child’s backpack.

  • According to doctors, children should carry no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight in their backpacks. You can help tip the scale in the right direction by getting your child a lightweight backpack.
  • Backpacks should be carried on both shoulders.
  • The straps should be tight enough for the backpack to sit two inches above the waist.
  • Straps should be wide and well padded. Thin straps can dig into the shoulder, interfering with nerves and circulation. Is your child complaining of tingling, numbness, and weakness in the arms and hands? Try buying a pack with wider straps.
  • Get a backpack with padding on the back. This will protect your child from getting poked by sharp edges from books, binders, and pencils.
  • Look for a backpack with a waist belt and multiple compartments. This will help distribute the weight more evenly. The heaviest items should be packed closest to the center.
  • Rolling backpacks can work well for children with extra heavy loads, but they also present a tripping hazard and can be difficult to maneuver up stairs or through the snow. Many schools do not allow them.

You can help your children lighten their load by encouraging them to:

  • Visit their locker or desk more often instead of carrying around a whole day’s worth of books
  • Keep any unnecessary items to a minimum
  • Bring home only the books they will need for their homework

Schools can help by providing extra copies of books in the classrooms so students can keep their copy at home and use the classroom copy at school. They can also provide places for students to store their books safely at school and provide curriculum online when possible.

If your child is experiencing any back pain or weakness/numbness in the arms or legs, be sure to contact your pediatrician.


For More Information:

Backpack Safety (AAOS)

Backpack Safety (AAP)

Backpack Safety (Kids Health)


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