School is in full swing now and it’s time to review how things are going so far. Besides classroom efforts, notice the weight of her education and its effect on her back to help prevent unnecessary back pain and discomfort.
There are signs to look for that indicate your child may be struggling with her backpack. If your child is unsteady, leaning forward, slouching to the side, or grumbling as she puts on and takes off her backpack, it may be time to reconsider what she uses to hold her stuff.
How to Find the Best Backpack
Picking out the right backpack for your child is more than finding her favorite character or color. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) recommends the following backpack features to prevent back pain.
Best Backpack Features
Lightweight: Backpacks are meant to carry weight, not add to it. Purchase a lightweight and cross-stitched backpack, so it holds weight and doesn’t add to the load.
Straps: Backpack straps should be wide with extra padding. These straps will help distribute the weight on your child’s shoulders while also preventing the straps from digging in. Always pick out backpacks with two straps, because one strap will put all of the weight on one shoulder. Also, look for a backpack with a waist strap. The waist strap further allows for the even distribution of weight from shoulders to lower back.
Padded back: Backpacks with padding at the back will provide support for your child’s back as well as create a soft barrier between her back and the contents within the backpack.
Compartments: Pick a backpack that has several compartments. This will also help distribute the weight throughout the backpack.
Best Way to Wear a Backpack
Know Weight Limits: Your child shouldn’t carry around more than 10 percent of her weight in the backpack. For example, if your child weighs 50 pounds, she should carry only five pounds or less on her back. You can test this out by weighing it on a scale.
Use Your Arms: If the backpack weighs more than five pounds, have your child carry some books in her arms. This will prevent the weight from hurting her back and distribute it on both sides of her body.
Use All Compartments: As mentioned above, more compartments mean better distribution over the weight of the bag. Separate out heavier items like binders and books into different compartments. Have your child try it on and tell you how it feels.
Regular Tidying Up: Go through your child’s backpack with her every day. Remove old papers and books that aren’t needed for the next day. Whatever you can take out will lessen the load while also teaching your child organizational skills.
Follow Waist Rule: The bottom of the backpack should not sit more than an inch or two below the waist. This prevents the bounce effect, where the backpack bounces as your child moves— possibly smacking her in back with every step. It also prevents it from pulling her shoulders back.
Adjust Straps: Adjust the straps to fit securely against your child. If it’s too tight, it will dig and pull on the shoulders. If it’s too loose, it will slide off and cause your child to lean forward to keep it on.
Talk to your child about backpack safety. Explain the signs that her backpack may be causing her pain. Show your child how to best use and adjust her backpack. Ask your child to speak out and ask for help when she is experiencing backpack pain at school and home.
These strategies should help you recognize and remedy backpack pain. If your child continues to have a lot of back pain, please bring her in for a consultation. You can bring in the backpack, too!