Today is the first day back to school for the kids in the Valley. And that means backpacks. Backpacks are frequently a necessary item for carrying school supplies as well as being a fashion accessory for today’s school children. They are also a frequent contributor to back pain in kids, and can lead to a life time of back problems. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission a 300 per cent increase in backpack related injuries has occurred since 1996.
Backpacks can contribute to pain when they are overloaded, packed incorrectly or worn improperly. The maximum weight carried in a pack should be no more than 15 per cent of the child’s body weight. For smaller children this may be only a few large text books. Improperly distributed loads can also increase chances for injury. Many kids hastily stuff the packs, increasing load on the spine. Wearing the pack over one shoulder unevenly distributes forces on the back.
When choosing a backpack a good design is important. Padded shoulder straps and a waist belt will distribute forces more appropriately. Multiple compartments allow smaller items to be found easier and allows better packing. Proper sizing is also important in distributing forces correctly.
When wearing a pack loading it correctly is important. Heavier items such as large books should be closest to the back and weights should be distributed evenly side to side. Both shoulder straps should be worn at all times along with a waist belt. These straps should be adjusted so they are snug but not overly tight. When standing for long periods taking the backpack off will relieve forces from the spine.
Taking time to get a proper backpack for your kids and teaching them how to use it can help them avoid a lifetime of back pain. If you or your kids have questions about backpacks or back call Ascent Physical Therapy in Avon, CO 970-949-9966 or in Eagle, CO 970-328-5230.