With the first week of school underway, there are bound to be a few new items that will be either coming home with your child or going to school with them. While this seems rather harmless, research shows that more than 50 percent of young people experience at least one episode of lower back pain by their teenage years and that this could be caused, to a great extent, by improper use of backpacks.
So what should we do about it? ….. PACK IT LIGHT. WEAR IT RIGHT. Follow these 4 steps to ensure that we are doing what we can to help your school age children carry their load comfortably and safely.
- Choose the right backpack. Go for vinyl or canvas. Pick a pack that has two wide, adjustable, padded shoulder straps, along with a hip or waist strap, padded back and plenty of pockets. Make sure the pack fits properly, is not too snug around the arms and under the armpits, and that its size is proportionate to the wearer’s body.
- Pack it properly. Make sure your children’s packs contain only what is needed for that day, and that the weight is distributed evenly. It’s a good idea to know roughly what each item weighs. The total weight of the filled pack should be no more than 10 to 15 per cent of the wearer’s own body weight. Pack heaviest objects close to the body, and place bumpy or odd shaped ones on the outside, away from the back.
- Putting the backpack on. This one is more for the little ones but still can be used when the bags get a little too heavy. Put the pack on a flat surface, at waist height. Slip on the pack, one shoulder at a time, then adjust the straps to fit comfortably. Remember when lifting a backpack, or anything, to lift using the arms and legs and to bend at the knees.
- Wearing the backpack properly. Both shoulder straps should be used, and adjusted so that the pack fits snugly to the body, without dangling to the side. Backpacks should never be worn over just one shoulder. You should be able to slide your hand between the backpack and your child’s back. The waist strap should also be worn for added stability.
In the event that your child does complain of back pain, numbness or weakness in his or her arms and legs, get help to prevent future problems.