Pack it Light, Wear it Right

Backpack Safety and Spinal Health

It is that time of the year, where summer is coming to an end and kids are getting ready to head back to school. While you may be a proud, excited parent for your kids to start a new school year, are you sending them out the door with a backpack that is safe for their health?

The size, shape and weight of your child's backpack are all crucial to their spine health. Many of the backpacks sold today, are more suited for fashion than for function. Kids think its "cool" to strap on their backpacks, but if they don't know how to choose, load, lift and wear them - this important accessory can become a pain in the back, literally. Not to mention the neck, head and shoulders too!

Here are a few tips to ensure your kids have a safe, and healthy school year:

1. Choose the right backpack

First, you want to ensure that the backpack is proportional to the size of the child. This means that the backpack should rest between the shoulders and the hips, and no wider than the torso. You also want the backpack to be made of a lightweight material, canvas and vinyl make excellent options. The pack should also have two wide, adjustable, and padded shoulder straps. It is also ideal to have a hip or waist strap, a padded back and plenty of pockets. Did you know that a waist strap can redistribute as much as 50 - 70% of the weight off the shoulders and spine to the pelvis to allow the weight to be carried over a larger area.

Backpacks are better than shoulder bags since the back and abdominal muscles are used to support the weight of the backpack and the weight is distributed over both shoulders instead of just one.

2. Limit the weight of the backpack

Your child's backpack should not be heavier than 10 - 15% of their body weight. This means that a child weighing 50 pounds should carry no more than 7.5 pounds and children weighing 100 pounds should carry no more than 15 pounds. Therefore make sure you are only packing what they need for that day, they are not moving out!

3. Pack it right

It is important to ensure that the heaviest items are packed nearest to the body to keep the weight closer to their center of gravity. Also consider packing each pocket evenly, especially on both the left and right sides. This will allow the weight to be distributed evenly and prevent items from shifting during movement.

4. Clean it out

You will be surprised what kids toss in their backpack over time and bring back and forth to school each day. Therefore, it is important to set aside a time each week and clean out any unnecessary items.

In conclusion...
A backpack should be easy for your child to get on and off. If you notice your child is struggling with this task, has indicated back, neck, shoulder pain and has to lean forward, it is important to speak with your child's Chiropractor about what you can do to help keep your child safe and healthy!