Summer is winding down and many students are headed back to school. One thing that may be on the back to school shopping list is a new backpack. Backpacks are a great way to carry books and supplies because the weight in a backpack is evenly distributed across the body. However, when too heavy or not worn properly, backpacks can strain muscles and joints. Dr. Eugenio Martinez, Physiatrist (medical specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation) at NEBH, suggests keeping these safety tips in mind when selecting, packing and wearing a backpack.
Selecting a Backpack
- Make sure to choose the right size backpack for your child. The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than 4 inches below the waistline.
- Look for a backpack with padded, wide shoulder straps and a padded back.
- Find a backpack with waist strap. These can help to help distribute weight evenly.
Packing a Backpack
- Pack larger and heavier items closest to the back.
- Don’t overload. A backpack should never be more than 10-15% of a child’s body weight. If a bag is too heavy, carry excess items in your hands.
Wearing a Backpack
- Always wear a backpack over both shoulders. Wearing it on one shoulder can cause a person to lean to one side, which can lead to pain or discomfort.
- Adjust straps so that the pack fits snugly on the back. A pack that hangs loosely can pull a person backwards and strain muscles. If there is a waist strap, make sure to fasten it when walking more than a block.
- Don’t forget-the bottom of the backpack should rest in the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than 4 inches below the waistline.
If your child has any type of persistent pain, consult an orthopedic expert.