The start of school usually means buying school supplies, including backpacks. Backpacks are one of the biggest necessities for students of all ages. As practical as backpacks are for those who use them, they can cause strained muscles and joints as well as back pain when worn incorrectly.
How does this happen? The human spine is made up of 33 bones called vertebrae. Between the vertebrae are discs that act as shock absorbers. When something heavy, such as a backpack filled with books, is incorrectly placed on your child’s shoulders, the force of that extra weight can pull your child backwards. To compensate, your child may bend forward at the hips or arch his back, which can cause your child’s spine to compress unnaturally. Because of the heavy weight he or she is carrying, your child might begin to develop shoulder, neck and back pain.
Although most backpacks come with two shoulder straps, this doesn’t mean that your kids will use both straps. Many kids like to wear their backpacks over just one shoulder, which is the wrong thing to do. This makes the person lean to one side to offset the extra weight and they might develop lower and upper back pain and strain their shoulders and neck. Wearing their backpack incorrectly can also lead to poor posture. So make sure your children wear a backpack using both straps. It’s also a good idea to tighten the straps enough for the backpack to fit close to the body and it should sit two inches above the waist for the most comfort.
When purchasing backpacks, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you look for five criteria:
*Choose a lightweight backpack that doesn’t add a lot of weight to your child’s load.
*Choose one that has two wide, padded shoulder straps. Straps that are too narrow can dig into shoulders.
*A backpack with a padded back provides increased comfort and protects the wearer from being poked by sharp objects ( pencils, rules, notebooks, etc.) inside the backpack.
*A waist belt helps distribute the weight more evenly across the body.
*A backpack that has multiple compartments helps distribute weight more evenly.
Taking the time to purchase an appropriate backpack is worth the effort. Before purchasing, have your child put on the backpack to make sure it fits. Some are more comfortable than others. You’ll also want to check to make sure that the stitching is secure. If not, the weight of the backpack will strain the straps, which may rip.
You’ll want to check your child’s backpack on a regular basis to make sure it doesn’t weigh too much. You may need to help clean it out every few weeks in order to keep the weight down. Some families clean out backpacks everyFriday after school to make sure that nothing important is left by mistake and to reduce the clutter. It’s amazing what can accumulate in a backpack.
Good luck with your back-to-school shopping!
Story submitted by Carrie T. Brazeal, who is the Family and Consumer Sciences agent for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Collin County. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-424-1460, Ext. 4233.