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Prevent Back Pain With Backpack Safety Tips

You and your child can work together to ensure a successful school year without back pain.

It's about time to start buying school supplies for your child. Although it's easy to pick out pens, paper and markers, other choices must be made with greater considerations. Take, for example, the backpack (or bookbag).

You may buy your child a backpack because it has his or her favorite super hero or princess on it, or maybe it has your child's favorite color. However, improper use of the backpack can lead to back pain in your child and start habits of bad posture that carry on into adult life.

What is a "bad" backpack?

I remember a conundrum I had in sixth grade. I couldn't figure out how to work the combination lock on my locker, so I ended up lugging my heavy textbooks around in my backpack every day. This wrecked my back. I still have some lower back pain, and I'm sure it didn't help my scoliosis at all.

According to KidsHealth.org, doctors recommend that children carry no more than 10 to 15 percent of their total body weight in their backpacks. 

For argument's sake, let's say I weighed 100 lbs in sixth grade. Ideally, I should have kept around ten lbs of books and binders in my backpack. I recall my parents weighing my backpack at one point and being shocked to see that it weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 lbs! 

As a parent, it is essential that you inform your child on the importance of keeping a light backpack and to store uneccessary items in a locker or desk. Furthermore, stress to your child the need to wear both shoulder straps on the backpack; although it may look "cool" to sling it over one shoulder, improper wearing of a backpack, even one with a proper weight, can throw off a child's posture and lead to shoulder and neck pain.

Are there back-friendly backpacks?

Sure there are!

Many packpacks now come with back-friendly features. According to KidsHealth.org, some of these features are:

  • A chest belt to help spread the load across the body
  • Wide, padded shoulder straps to prevent uncomfortable friction between the straps and the shoulders, and
  • A padded back, which can prevent your child from getting poked by a sharpened pencil or the edge of a ruler.

As always, proper wearing of the backpack is essential to preventing pain. Make sure your child uses both shoulder straps. Additionally, ensure that the straps are tight enough on the body that the pack rests at the middle of the back; backpacks slung too low, or that come to rest near the buttocks, will lead to back pain.

You are responsible for the well-being of your child. Try to find a back-safe backpack, and do not settle for one strap backpacks or messenger bags. Talk to your child about properly loading his or her backpack, and insist he or she leave uneeded items at home or at school. Show your child how to use all the compartments of the backpack; they are there for a reason! Finally, do not hesitate to get in contact with your child's school to discuss ways parents and teachers can work together to ensure lighter backpacks and less back pain for all students.

See also: Back to School Guide on Johns Creek Patch

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