With School Backpack Awareness Day (9/18/2013) just around the corner, Woodburn Pediatrics believes it is important for parents to be aware of the serious health effects that too heavy and improperly worn school backpacks can have on children. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) found that over 2,000 back related injuries were reported in the year 2007 alone. The threat of serious injury caused by kids’ backpacks is worrisome for parents. Ease your worries and help your student stay healthy by taking steps towards better backpack practices.

Best Practices for Loading a Backpack

  • A loaded backpack should weigh no more than 10 % of the child’s weight.
  • For most backpacks, including popular Jansport backpacks, the best place to load heavy items is the furthest (also the largest) zippered section.
  • Try to keep heavy items near the middle of the back for even weight distribution.
  • Only load items that are absolutely necessary for the school day.
  • Have your child carry anything that cannot fit in the backpack by hand.

Best Practices for Wearing a Backpack

  • Children must wear both straps to evenly distribute the weight of the backpack. Wearing a backpack slung to one side of the back can cause spinal and back complications.
  • Select a school backpack that has padding built into the straps.
  • Make sure the backpack fits snugly and securely. Backpacks that hang below the waist or are too loose can strain muscles.
  • A backpack should never rest more than four inches below a child’s waistline. Ideally, it should sit within the curve of the lower back.
  • If a backpack comes with a waist belt, have your child wear it. This helps prevent back pain by distributing the weight more evenly.

These steps offer practical ways to reduce strain and pain in the back, neck, and shoulders. It is important to ask your child regularly if he or she is experiencing pain. Many kids assume that mild pain is not a big deal, and may not notify you of it unless you ask first. If your child is experiencing chronic back, shoulder, or neck pain, contact us or visit us in person to schedule an appointment. Help your child stay healthy this school year by educating him or her about healthy backpack wearing practices.