Back to school shopping is underway, including the search for new schoolbags. Backpacks are very popular, but cause health problems if heavy and improperly packed. When picking the right backpack, make sure your children choose a bag that will not harm their health. One study, reported in the Journal of School Nursing, warns:
Given that children are still developing physically, regularly carrying heavy loads can contribute to pain and injuries in the lower back, shoulders, and joints and ultimately related disorders in adulthood. Furthermore, heavy backpacks increase the chances of children falling.
So what can parents do to protect their children? Here are eight expert tips for selecting a good backpack:
1. Choose a backpack with two straps
Although one-strap bags are stylish, they are not the best choice for children’s backs. “Using a backpack with one-strap, not two, puts all the pressure on one shoulder,” Dr. William Hennrikus, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, told WebMD. “It pulls the shoulder down and can cause back, neck, and shoulder pain.”
2. Use the waist straps
Many backpacks include waist straps that children ignore, but are important for their health. “Shoulders are not designed to hang things from,” Dr. Elise G. Hewitt, president of the American Chiropractic Association’s (ACA) Pediatrics Council, told The Huffington Post. Hewitt explains that, “by using the strap, the bulk of the weight can be carried on the hip bones, rather than on the shoulders.”
3. Limit backpack weight
Limit what children put in their backpacks to the things they really need to reduce the backpack weight. “The weight of the backpack should be 10 to 15 percent of the child’s body weight or less,” according to Samantha Dutrow, a pediatric physical therapist, speaking to Everyday Health. “The heaviest items should be placed closest to the child’s back in the backpack.”
4. Get lots of padding
Make sure your child chooses a bag with plenty of padding. “The best thing you can do is get a backpack that is well-padded along the back, and encourage a child to wear a backpack with two straps,” said Dr. Mark Lee, a pediatric orthopedist, to WSPA.
5. Make sure the backpack is the right size for your child
Do not let your children pick backpacks that are too big. “It should cover no more than 75 percent of the length of your child’s back, which is approximately the space between the shoulder blades and waist,” Linda Rhodes, a pediatric occupational therapist, told Delaware Online.
6. Look for padding on shoulder straps
In addition to padding on the back, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends choosing a bag with extra padding on the shoulder straps. The padding makes the straps comfortable and keeps them from digging into children’s shoulders.
7. Consider a rolling backpack
If your children must carry a heavy load, consider purchasing a rolling backpack. Make sure your children’s school allows students to use rolling backpacks. The AAP reminds parents that children still need to carry rolling backpacks upstairs and that the wheels are problematic in snowy weather.
8. Pack heaviest items closest to the back
When packing their backpacks, tell your children to distribute their books and supplies throughout all the compartments. In addition, the AAP recommends packing the heaviest objects “closest to the center of the back.”