Children and teenagers heading back to school are filling their backpacks with textbooks, pens, pencils, cell phones, tablet computers, sports equipment and more. As they get older, those backpacks get heavier and heavier. If your child sometimes complains of neck and shoulder pain, it could be time to find ways to lighten their load.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, hospitals and doctors treat more than 7,300 injuries each year which are directly related to backpacks. Those injuries include sprains, bruises, fractures, and neck, back and shoulder pain. Another study in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics found that 64 percent of 11 to 15-year-olds who regularly carried backpacks to school reported some degree of pain. While there is little danger of long-term damage to growing children’s bodies, backpacks can injure muscles and joints, as well as cause posture problems.
A youngster’s backpack should weigh 10 to 20 percent of the child’s body weight, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. (For example, a 100-pound child should carry a backpack totaling less than 20 pounds.) Many experts suggest a more conservative approach, favoring as little as 10 percent — particularly for younger children or those who are not as physically fit.
To keep your students safe and pain-free, begin by choosing a high-quality backpack designed specifically for children. Have them try on the backpack to make sure it fits snugly into the curve of their back. Choose a backpack with:
Check to see whether your school allows students to use a rolling backpack. These can be a useful option to reduce the strain of large cargo. However, it may be difficult to fit a wheeled backpack into a locker or carry it up multiple flights of stairs.
Next, help your child load the backpack for maximum efficiency.
Finally, make sure your child wears the backpack properly. Free-swinging backpacks or poorly balanced weight can cause bruises and shoulder pain – and may cause a child to lose his or her balance and fall. Teach them to bend at the knees rather than at the waist while wearing a backpack. They should also use their legs to lift the backpack as they put it on one strap at a time.
Backpacks are a great tool to help your child transport books, pencils, sweaters and other items back and forth to school. With a little extra planning, you can keep them safe and healthy while benefiting from this convenience piece of equipment.
For a free physician referral or answers to your general healthcare questions, call 1-800-447-8206 or visit www.OsceolaRegional.com.