In recent years, evidence has come to light that we are placing our children at risk for debilitating muscle and joint injuries from overloaded backpacks, a staple among elementary and high school-aged kids.
- Cause the shoulders to round, leading to poor posture later in life
- Distort the natural curves of the spine, leading to muscle and joint strain, as well as stress the rib cage.
- Force the child to lean forward, losing balance and risking a fall. One study found that as much as 60 percent of children experience back pain from carrying backpacks.
Here are some backpack safety tips:
- Tell your child to avoid carrying the backpack on one shoulder. This can cause a muscle strain from the uneven weight. When children do this, the spine often leans to the opposite side, stressing the middle back, ribs, and lower back more on one side than the other. Excessive weight on one side also pulls the neck muscles and can cause headaches as well as neck and arm pain.
- As a rule of thumb, do not allow your child to carry a backpack that is more than 10 percent of his or her body weight.
- Don't allow the backpack to hang more than four inches below the waistline. This increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking.
- Choose backpacks with wide, padded straps that are adjustable. Make sure that backpack is snug (but not tight) against your child's back. The shifting weight of the backpack causes strain on the child's neck and back muscles.