With school about to get into full swing, something that is sometimes over looked, is how heavy is your child’s backpack.
As school gets underway here in a few weeks, parents are out doing their school shopping for their children. And one item on that list is a new backpack. Backpacks come in all shapes and sizes. Improperly loaded backpacks can make them to heavy, and can be harmful to your child.
“The straps should be fitted so that the backpack rests against the child’s back. When the straps are left loose, the bags pulls down and away from the body, and puts more stress on the spine. This puts the child at more risk of back pain, and also worsens their posture over time as they slump forward or arch their back to compensate,” Pediatric chiropractor Sclie Murray said.
According to www.kidshealth.org:
• When a heavy weight, such as a backpack filled with books, is incorrectly placed on the shoulders, the weight’s force can pull a child backward. To compensate, a child may bend forward at the hips or arch the back, which can cause the spine to compress unnaturally. The heavy weight might cause some kids to develop shoulder, neck, and back pain.
• Kids who wear their backpacks over just one shoulder — as many do, because they think it looks better or just feels easier — may end up leaning to one side to offset the extra weight. They might develop lower and upper back pain and strain their shoulders and neck.
• Improper backpack use can also lead to poor posture. Girls and younger kids may be especially at risk for backpack-related injuries because they’re smaller and may carry loads that are heavier in proportion to their body weight.
• Also, backpacks with tight, narrow straps that dig into the shoulders can interfere with circulation and nerves. These types of straps can contribute to tingling, numbness, and weakness in the arms and hands.
• Although many factors can lead to back pain — increased participation in sports or exercise, poor posture while sitting, and long periods of inactivity — some kids have backaches because they’re lugging around their entire locker’s worth of books, school supplies, and assorted personal items all day long. But most doctors and physical therapists recommend that kids carry no more than 10% to 15% of their body weight in their packs.
Other safety issues to consider. Students might not be aware of how much space these backpacks can take up. This can cause issues with a student turning and hitting another student. Or if the student puts the backpack down and another students trips over it. If a student is wearing a heavy backpack and trips and falls this can cause issues as well. Heavy backpacks changes the way a student walks, and it changes their center of balance. This can cause a student to trip and fall. If a student trips and falls, the student has more weight because of the back pack, and with this extra weight could cause injuries.
Parents can reduce some of these issues by buying a proper backpack for their children. There are many different types of backpacks to purchase, some are safer then others.
“Many companies ( such as Land’s End) now make a variety of backpacks for children, based on height. Not only are they easier to properly fit, but it helps to prevent overfilling the bag,” Murray said.
Here are a few guide lines on purchasing a backpack from the American Academy of Pediatrics,
• A lightweight pack that doesn’t add a lot of weight to your child’s load (for example, even though leather packs look cool, they weigh more than traditional canvas backpacks).
• Two wide, padded shoulder straps. Straps that are too narrow can dig into shoulders.
• A padded back, which not only provides increased comfort, but also protects kids from being poked by sharp edges on objects (pencils, rulers, notebooks, etc.) inside the pack.
• A waist belt, which helps to distribute the weight more evenly across the body.
• Multiple compartments, which can help distribute the weight more evenly.
• Although packs on wheels (which look like small, overhead luggage bags) may be good options for students who have to lug around really heavy loads, they’re extremely difficult to pull up stairs and to roll through snow. Check with the school before buying a rolling pack; many schools don’t allow them because they can pose a tripping hazard in the hallways.
Like most families, the morning can be a very busy time of the day. Parents getting ready for work, breakfast, and kids getting ready for school. With all this happening the responsibly sometimes falls on the child to pack his or her backpack.
Here are some guide lines from www.kidshealth.org to help your child make the right decision about getting their backpack ready for school, and a few things they can do to not have to carry a heavy backpack around all day.
• Encourage kids to use their locker or desk frequently throughout the day instead of carrying the entire day’s worth of books in the backpack.
• Make sure kids don’t tote unnecessary items — laptops, cell phones, and video games can add extra pounds to a pack.
• Encourage kids to bring home only the books needed for homework or studying each night.
• Ask about homework planning. A heavier pack on Fridays might mean that a child is procrastinating on homework until the weekend, making for an unnecessarily heavy backpack.
• Picking up the backpack the right way can also help kids avoid back injuries. As with any heavy weight, they should bend at the knees and grab the pack with both hands when lifting a backpack to the shoulders.
• Use all of the backpack’s compartments, putting heavier items, such as textbooks, closest to the center of the back.