Parents are there to protect their children and help them grow in healthy adults that can help contribute to society. And all the building blocks for that foundation are laid during the child's development. But one building block that can be easily overlooked because often times the consequences do not quickly manifest, is how to properly use their backpack. Everything from a simple canvas carrier of knowledge to an elaborate nylon personal locker, there is a safe way to wear and carry a back pack so as to prevent years of back pain down the road.
With an ever growing work load for students, the weight of their backpacks has been increasing. This is cause for concern because carrying too much weight for too long on a developing spine can lead to a list of problems including but not limited to a potential sprains, strains, disc damage or even possible scoliosis if unevenly loaded. The maximum weight of the backpack should not exceed 10-20% of the wearer's weight. So a 100-pound student should not be carrying more than 10-20 pounds worth of supplies, books and lunch. A couple textbooks can easily exceed that weight limit, so a reasonable alternative is to buy or rent a second set of books to keep at home. This will also eliminate the excuse that the child left their book at school and cannot do their homework.
Not only does how much the back weighs matter, but how that weight is distributed is important. Because by application of simple laws of physics, if the heavier text book is placed further from the spine, is can actually simulate a heavier load, causing the same risk as a heavier back pack. So the best rule to follow when loading a backpack, is to place the heaviest objects closest to the back of the student. And to reduce the shifting of items, separating items into the different compartments also helps.
The features of a back-friendly backpack to look for are two thick, well-padded straps, a lumbar or waist strap, a padded back, and multiple compartments. If you would rather your child avoid carrying a backpack all-together, trying finding one with wheels so that they can pull it along, rather than carry it.
Just because having a backpack that is properly designed and filled optimally, the student still needs to carry it correctly. Lifting the backpack should be done with the legs, not bending the back and reaching. Once one the student, they should wear both straps, with one on each shoulder to balance the weight across the back. The straps should then be adjusted so that the bottom of the backpack is approximately 2" above the student’s waist, not slung low hitting the back of their legs. The waist strap should be adjusted so that the backpack does not bounce or move too much while walking.
Dr. Sean McKnight