(Written and photos by: Dr. Jenn Randall, DPT, OCS, CMPT)
It’s back to school time, which means backpacks are back. Time and again when I pick up a kid’s backpack, I’m shocked by how heavy they are! Heavy backpacks can have negative consequences for your child. This can include poor posture, strain on the neck and shoulders, mid and low back pain.
Here is a checklist of things you can do to improve your child’s backpack safety.
The 10 Percent Rule. Kids should not be carrying more than 10-20% of their body weight in their backpack. This is a bit of a range, but it’s always best to veer towards the lighter side of this recommendation. That means, if your child weighs 50 lbs, their backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 5 lbs. As anyone packing for a flight knows, weight can accumulate quicker than you think.
Padding. Choose a backpack with wide shoulder straps and padding. Wider straps help keep the weight evenly distributed, putting less stress on your child’s shoulders and neck.
Double up. Use both straps. Using only one strap results in an uneven distribution of weight and results in an uneven carrying pattern that is not good for your child’s posture, especially when that bag is heavy. Furthermore, selecting a pack that has two straps is ideal. If you do have a single strap back, alternate which side you wear it on.
Waist and Chest Straps. The second most effective way to improve backpack safety is to use chest and waist straps that help distribute the weight of the bag more evenly
Tighten it Up. Where the load sits on your child’s back/hips makes a difference. You want the bag to be close to their back and above the waist, as higher load placement will improve comfort and efficiency.
Pack Strategically. Pack heavier items, like textbooks, in the back of the backpack closer to your back. This way when your child is running or spinning around, the weight is closer to their center of gravity and they are less likely to get off balance or fall.
Try Wheels. If these fixes aren’t enough, a wheeled backpack is another option that eliminates the strain of weight on the back and neck altogether.
At Zenith Performance and Wellness, we are dedicated to helping your family stay healthy. Back and neck pain in children and young adults is not normal, but also not uncommon. They often can benefit from physical therapy to help identify and correct the cause. Contact us to help your child return to their pain free ways.