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Back-to-School: Heavy Backpacks Hazardous to Your Child’s Health?

Check out my KVUE interview. I’ve been asked to give this talk a number of times. It’s important. Back pain isn’t just for us old folks! Lighten the load. Here are ten things you can do to help:

  1. Make sure your child’s backpack weighs no more than 10-15% of their body weight. Put them on a scale, with and without the backpack!
  2. Don’t purchase loosely constructed backpacks, with one big compartment. Multiple compartments help distribute the weight within.
  3. Make sure the shoulder straps are well padded. Thin straps can exert pressure on sensitive muscles and nerves.
  4. Ask your child to tighten the straps so the pack sits in the middle of the upper back, and not low. A heavy weight, set low, can cause your child to lean forward in order to balance the pack. This is bad for posture and can cause pain.
  5. Check your child’s backpack at the end of every week, and help them remove stuff they’ve just accumulated over the week.
  6. Do you need to send your child to school with snacks and water bottles in the backpack? Will they suffer from starvation and thirst if they don’t get food or water between breakfast, lunch and dinner?
  7. Encourage your child not to sling the backpack over one shoulder. Centering it on their back is the best way to support the weight.
  8. Make sure the backpack isn’t so huge that it has the potential to  injure other students as your child turns around in the hallway.
  9. Ask your school to provide classroom copies of books, so the kids don’t have to lug around their own copies. You might have to start with your PTA.
  10. If your school has stopped allowing children to use their lockers, see if there is a way to reinstate the use of them. Again, you might have to start with the PTA.

Is your child’s backpack too heavy?

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