Now that school has begun, are you ready for your first test? Is your child’s backpack making the grade? Backpacks are still the best way for your child to tote their homework, but an overloaded or improperly worn backpack gets a failing grade. An overloaded backpack can cause injury when a child uses prolonged postures such as arching the back, leaning forward, or leaning to the side to compensate for the large load. This can cause muscles and soft tissues of the back to work harder, leading to strain and fatigue. A heavy load may also cause undue stress or compression to their shoulders which may cause an experience of tingling or numbness in their arms. Backpacks worn correctly and not overloaded are supported by the back and abdominal muscles which are some of the strongest muscles in the body. These muscles work together to stabilize the trunk (core) and maintain an efficient posture. Clues that your child’s backpack may be too heavy include: pain when wearing the backpack, tingling or numbness in the arms, or red marks on the shoulders. Use the following tips for safe backpack use:
- Do not overload your child’s backpack. The maximum safe weight for a backpack is 15% of your child’s body weight.
- Remind your child to take a break from carrying it if needed, such as when standing and waiting for the bus.
- Fasten the hip belt of the backpack if it has one.
- If the load can’t be decreased, try to have your child carry some of it in their hands.
- Encourage your child to use both straps. By using both straps, the backpack weight is more evenly distributed and promotes a symmetrical posture.
- Make sure your child’s backpack fits:
- Shoulder straps should fit comfortably on the shoulders and under the arms so that the arms can move freely.
- The pack should “sit” evenly in the middle of the back and not “sag down” towards the buttocks.