This is the time of year when people start complaining about back pain and they have no idea what is causing it.
Lower back pain, a tilted gait, and the need to bend forward may be indicative of side effects of a backpack that is too heavy. And, it's no wonder why since many text book publishers feel the need to increase the weight of their books to help substantiate a high price tag. Books and a laptop computer add up in the pounds department.
There are a few guidelines for safe backpack use, suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
- Wear both shoulder straps to distribute the weight evenly.
- Pack lightly. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 percent to 15 percent of the student’s body weight.
- Organize the backpack so the heaviest items are closest to the back.
- Wear backpacks close to the body, over the strongest back muscles. The straps should be tightened so the backpack rests two inches above the waist.
The AAP also suggests a few criteria when shopping for a new backpack. Look for backpacks that have:
- Wide, padded shoulder straps instead of narrow straps, which can hinder circulation.
- A padded back, to reduce pressure and enhance comfort.
- A waist strap, which can help distribute the weight of the backpack more evenly.
Parents should be aware of how heavy their child’s backpack is and whether their child is at risk for injury. If the student experiences pain, tingling or numbness in the arms or changes posture while wearing the backpack, the backpack is too heavy.