Backpacks have become an inseparable part of school life. Modern backpacks are a practical way for children to carry heavy school books, laptops lunch, and water bottles. Kids even stuff their packs with sports gear, video games and other accessories. There are different types of backpacks in various sizes and designs for kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, and high school.
Today’s backpacks are specifically designed to distribute the weight of the load across the body and its strongest muscles. However, Dr. Russel Greenseid, lead chiropractor at HealthQuest in Brooklyn, NY, cautions that carrying loads that are too heavy can cause neck, back and shoulder pain as well as posture problems in tots and teenagers. To prevent injury, parent need to choose the right backpack and also teach their child how to use it correctly.
Here are some important points to consider when buying a school backpack:
- Choose a backpack made of lightweight material.
- Make sure that the backpack has multiple compartments as this helps to distribute the weight of the content.
- The backpack should be the length of the torso, with the bottom meeting the lower back but not more than 4 inches below the waist.
- The bag and straps should meet at a point that is 1 to 2 inches below the top of the shoulders.
- Other features to look for include: two wide, padded shoulder straps, padded back, and thick waist strap. Padded shoulder straps help prevent the straps from digging into the shoulders, back, and neck.
- Backpacks that have pieces of reflective material are useful for night-time use.
The best way to know whether the backpack is the right one is to have your kid try it on.
Using the bag correctly is crucial to prevent posture and gait problems. The waist strap should always be used as this helps to distribute the weight. Using the strap is important as this will ensure that the hip bones support the bulk of the weight instead of the shoulders. The pack should be worn on both shoulders to avoid straining one side of the spine. The bag should fit comfortably and the straps can be tightened to keep it close to the body. Kids can drop off some of their stuff in their locker at school so that they don’t have to carry a heavy load around.
Children should know that they should never overload their back pack. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends that a backpack should not weigh more than 15 to 20 percent of a child’s body weight, while the American Academy of Pediatrics advises not exceeding 10 percent.
Parents need to be watchful to spot symptoms caused by an overloaded back pack. These include difficulty and discomfort while putting on the pack and taking it off, back and neck pain, red marks on the shoulders from straps that are too tight, or complaints about numbness in shoulders, arms or fingers. Such backpack related injuries are most likely temporary and can be effectively treated in an established pain management center. Leading multispecialty facilities in New York provide customized neck and back pain treatment using nonsurgical modalities for all age groups.