Growing up, my favorite part of school was buying a new backpack each year and filling it with all new school supplies. The backpack had to be the “right” color and style–it was a fashion accessory. I would sling it over one shoulder and lug my books around. That lasted until it became uncool to carry a backpack and I started holding my books in my hand. Apparently, I was doing damage to my back.
According to the American Chiropractic Association, improperly worn backpacks are a leading cause of back and shoulder pain for millions of children. My 5-year-old is about to start kindergarten. How did that happen?! It seems like it was just yesterday when I took this picture of her first day of preschool. Now that she will be bringing home homework, I asked my chiropractor, Dr. Gina Giancola for advice. She sent me a list of backpack safety tips…..
How to Pack a Backpack
- Backpack should not exceed 15-20% of the child’s weight.
- The heaviest book or items should be closest to the child’s back at the back of the backpack or the bottom of the pack.
- If the pack is too heavy, balance it out by having the child carry some books in their hands in front of them or use a backpack on wheels.
How to Wear a Backpack
- The child must use both shoulder straps to evenly distribute the weight of the backpack and to avoid curving the spine which causes pain.
- Make sure the straps are adjusted so the backpack fits snugly. Adjust the straps so the pack isn’t slipping down too low because the straps are too loose. Do not make the straps so tight that they cut off circulation to the arms.
- The bottom of the backpack should not rest more than 4 inches below the waist.
- Some backpacks now have a waist belt. If your child’s pack has a waist belt use it to help distribute the weight evenly between the back and the hips. Center the backpack on the child’s back.
Very Important Tip
Teach your children to bend their knees and use their legs to lift the backpack putting one shoulder strap on at a time. Proper lifting techniques taught as a child will carry through into adulthood and spare their back from problems down the road that may arise due to improper lifting techniques.