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These days, there are different types of backpacks or school bags whether for school , work or, play; double strap backpacks, cross shoulder packs and even backpacks with strollers!… now that’s what I call the easy life. We pay a lot of attention to the style and beauty of bags especially now that school is in session but how much attention do we give to its functionality and the amount of load children carry in their backpacks?

backpack

School children and adolescents carry “heavily burdened backpacks” as a result of increase in school work, homework and school extracurricular activities.  Ever take a cross-sectional view of school children/ teenagers and their backpacks? You’ll realize that at least 2 out of 5 are carrying too much load in their backpacks and you can tell from the way they hunch forward or lean to one side. It has been revealed that students carry on average, over 15% of their own body weight which can cause biomechanical and physiological adaptations that can increase muscle pain/injury risk, fatigue, redness, swelling and discomfort.

backpack

Backpack load has a lot of effect on the body over time, especially on the musculoskeletal system and biomechanics. It can cause a change in natural curvature of the spine, upper back and lower back pain, shoulder pain, forward neck posture, neck pain, forearm pain, foot pain and sometimes numbness in the upper body.

These injuries are preventable and there are ways to prevent backpacks from causing pain and other physiological and biomechanical issues.

How you may ask?

By checking the backpack weight and how the backpack is being carried.

Various recommendations have been made by health and physical therapy bodies, and in some states in the USA, policies have been put in place to regulate backpack weight or load. It has been recommended by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) that backpack loads of school children have a maximum limit around 15% – 20% of the child’s body weight and 5% – 10% of the child’s body weight respectively.

Let’s do a little math:

If your child weighs 30kg, the right backpack weight would be around 1.5kg – 3kg according to ACA and 4.5kg – 6kg according to APTA.

Protecting your child’s growing spine from physical stress caused by heavy backpacks is what every parent would love to do but many do not know how to.

 Here are a few pointers and tips on how to care for your child’s spine this school season.

  • Less is always better. A bigger school bag isn’t always the best and shouldn’t be an avenue to stuff your child’s bag.
  • Be careful when selecting a backpack for your child. There are wrong backpacks.
  • Try to take your child along with you when shopping for his/her school backpack to get a perfect fit and size.
  • Teach your ward(s) how to wear their backpacks properly

Tips for proper backpack loading:

  • Adjust weight or load to recommendations
  • Tighten straps so the backpack is close to the body. This prevents the shoulders from carrying the full weight of the bag.
  • Think functionality, think compartments. The more compartments, the easier it will be to evenly distribute backpack load within the backpack.
  • Use the rule of thumb: The bottom of the backpack should be 2-4 inches above the waist and the top of the backpack should be right below the neck.
  • Pack smartly. Declutter your child’s backpack as often as possible. Children like to have everything in their bags and might in the process pack what they do not need. Find time to help them remove what is not necessary for school.
  • Purchase bags with padded backs and shoulder straps.
  • Teach proper method of backpack carriage and teach them to avoid bending their backs when carrying a backpack.
  • Try backpacks on wheels!… the easy life.

Sources

Michelle Perrone, Robin Orr, Wayne Hing, Nikki Milne and Rodney Pope. The Impact of Backpack Loads on School Children: A Critical Narrative Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 2018, 15, 2529.

10 Tips to Lighten the Load of Your Child’s Backpack. www.spinemd.com/new-philanthropy/wear-it-well-10-tips-to-lighten-the-load-of-your-childs-backpack

Backpack Safety: It’s Time to Lighten the Load. www.nsc.org/home-safety/safety-topics/child-safety/backpacks

The Dangers of Heavy Backpacks- and How Kids can Wear Them Safely. www.huffpost.com/entry/what-heavy-backpacks-are-doing-to-kids-bodies