It’s that time of the year again – summer is coming to an end and students are heading back to school!
Between classes, studying, homework, and extracurricular activities, going back to school may make students feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. And sometimes, they literally do. A backpack that is too heavy, or that is carried improperly, increases the risk of injury. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, at least 14,000 children are treated for backpack-related injuries every year. However, injury is preventable and it is possible for students to carry backpacks comfortably.
Signs and symptoms that the backpack is too heavy:
- A forward head posture, or a change in posture by leaning forward to compensate for the weight of the backpack.
- Red marks on the shoulders from the straps.
- Shoulders, arms, or fingers feel “tingly” or are “falling asleep”.
- Pain in the neck, shoulders, back, hips, and/or knees when carrying the backpack.
Tips on how to wear a backpack safely and to prevent pain/injury:
- Buy a backpack with two wide, padded straps that go over the shoulders.
- When fully loaded, the weight of the backpack should be less than 10-15% of body weight.
- The backpack should be close to the body with minimal space between the back and the pack itself.
- The length of the backpack should be the length of the torso and the bottom should be two inches below the waist.
- The backpack should always be worn on both shoulders.
- Use the waist strap (preferably a thick one) to help distribute the weight.
- Heavier items should be placed closer to the back of the backpack, near the body.
- As with any heavy object, bend at the knees and use both hands to pick up the backpack.
- Develop stronger lower back and abdominal muscles to help prevent injury.