Backpacks are a popular and practical way for children and teenagers to carry schoolbooks and supplies. They are designed to distribute the weight of the load among some of the body’s strongest muscles. When used correctly, backpacks can be a good way to carry the necessities of the school day.
Backpacks that are too heavy or are worn incorrectly can cause problems for children and teenagers. Improperly used backpacks may injure muscles and joints. This can lead to severe back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems.
Although they are linked to posture problems, heavy backpacks do not cause scoliosis. Scoliosis is a sideways curve of the spine that often shows up in children during adolescence.
The following guidelines can help your family use backpacks safely.
Courtesy of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
When choosing a backpack, look for some of the following features.
- Wide, padded shoulder straps
- Two shoulder straps
- Padded back
- Waist strap
- Lightweight backpack
- Rolling backpack
To prevent injury when using a backpack, do the following:
- Always use both shoulder straps
- Tighten the straps
- Pack light
- Remove items
- Lift properly
- Build muscle strength
Parents also can help.
- Encourage your child or teenager to tell you about pain or discomfort that may be caused by a heavy backpack.
- Do not ignore any back pain in a child or teenager.
- Talk to the school about lightening the load.
- Be sure the school allows students to stop at their lockers throughout the day. Team up with other parents to encourage changes.
- If your child has back pain that does not improve, consider buying a second set of textbooks to keep at home.