When September rolls around, a common sight will return to sidewalks: children walking to and from school with large, heavy knapsacks strapped to their backs.
While the backpack is necessary for school, it can also cause health problems. More than 50 per cent of young people will experience at least one episode of lower back pain by the time they are teenagers.
Wearing a heavy backpack can reduce blood flow, contribute to poor posture, cause numbness in arms and distort the natural curve of the mid and lower back.
Carrying weight that isn’t distributed evenly or properly can strain muscles, lead to nerve damage and cause back, neck, and arm pain. A heavy backpack slung over one shoulder, for example, forces the muscles and spine to compensate for the uneven weight; this stresses and can cause pain to the mid and lower back.
The following questions can help you determine whether your child’s backpack is properly designed and comfortable:
- Is it positioned below your child’s shoulder and above the hipbone?
- Is it made of lightweight material?
- Does it have adjustable, padded shoulder straps that are at least two inches wide?
- Does it have a padded back for added protection and comfort?
- Does it come with a hip strap or waist belt, which would help redistribute the weight or contents?
- Does it have several individual pockets instead of one large compartment?
- Does your child carry the backpack over both shoulders?
- Can your child stand upright comfortably while wearing the backpack?
If you answered no to three or more questions, consider the following tips to ensure that your child is carrying the right knapsack.
- Make sure the backpack weighs less than 10 per cent of your child’s body weight (or less than 15 per cent for high school students).
- Avoid leather knapsacks; choose a lightweight material.
- The backpack should be proportionate to your child’s body size. It shouldn’t rise above the shoulders or extend below the hipbone.
- Pack the heaviest or bulkiest items closest to the child’s back.
- Ensure your child wears both shoulder straps.
- To put the knapsack on, a child should place it on a table or chair, bend at the knees and lift with the legs while putting on one shoulder strap at a time.
If you have any questions or concerns, please ask us.