Don’t Forget the Back in “Back To School!”

“Oh, my achin’ back!” isn’t something you’d expect to hear from your child. Youth can be a benefit when it comes to your back health; but, there are some things that parents should be cautious about when it comes to their child’s back.

Back to school means finding the right backpack for your child – this is an accessory they will be carrying for hours each day for the next 9 months. While a great convenience for hauling textbooks and homework, carrying a backpack can be problematic. Backpacks that are too heavy or worn incorrectly can result in an aching back and shoulders, tingling arms, weakened muscles, and stooped posture. The back will compensate for any weight that it is required to carry, but, the consequences can distort the natural curve of the spine, round the shoulders, and cause imbalance and fall risks.

First, you’ll want to choose the best backpack for your child. When selecting a backpack, ensure that it is the correct size for your child. When selecting a backpack, it should be approximately two inches below the shoulder blades to waist level, or slightly above the waist. It should rest comfortably at that height and shouldn’t sink below the waistline. Choose a lightweight material such as canvas instead of a heavier material like leather. It should have two, padded shoulder straps – avoid a one shouldered bag to help the weight to distribute evenly across your child’s back. If the bag might tend to be loaded on the heavier side, choose one that has a hip belt to help relieve some of the weight from the back to the pelvis. You might even consider a rolling bag rather than one that is worn on the back.

Once you’ve selected the correct (and obviously the coolest) backpack, you’ll want to make sure that it is used appropriately. Distribute weight evenly. Load heaviest items closest to your child’s back and balance materials so that they can easily stand up straight. Arrange the load so that it does not shift and cause imbalance. Check that the packed backpack weighs no more than 10 percent of your child’s body weight. If your child weighs 80 lbs., their backpack should never exceed 8 lbs. If it does, clean out the backpack regularly to eliminate excess or unneeded items. If it has a hip strap, encourage them to use it to help alleviate the strain on the back and shoulders. Always ensure all of the zippers and compartments are closed. If your child does begin to complain of shoulder, neck or back pain, it might be time to reevaluate what backpack they are using.

Remember the most important thing to remember when keeping your child’s spine safe and loading up the school backpack is to “Pack it Light, Wear it Right!”