You’ve likely noticed them by now. School buses are back on the street packed with students. Many of those kids step off the bus with a potential health hazard over their shoulder — a backpack filled with homework.
Backpacks come in all shapes, sizes and colors. It is a fun way for any girl or boy to express their style. Some are monogrammed, some covered with cartoon characters, many equipped with special compartments for every tool a student needs, like pencils, notebooks and books.
Yes, they are practical, but a heavy backpack can strain muscles and joints. Wearing a backpack incorrectly can lead to severe back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems.
The spine is made of 33 bones called vertebrae, and between the vertebrae are discs that act as natural shock absorbers. When a backpack filled with books is placed on a boy or girl’s shoulders incorrectly, the force of the weight can pull the child backward and to compensate the child may bend their hips forward or arch their back.
Pay attention to detail when selecting a backpack; choose one that is equipped with a padded back, waist and wide shoulder straps. Narrow straps can dig into a child’s shoulders and interfere with circulation and nerves.
The heavy load danger is not just for kids 12 and under. Middle and high school are at risk, too. They are lugging heavier books home daily.
Luckily, back pain created by backpacks is preventable. Parents should talk to their kids about lightening the load. You can even use a bathroom scale.
The backpack should not weigh more than 10 percent to 15 percent of your child’s weight. If your child weighs 80 pounds, the pack should not weigh more than 8 to 12 pounds. If your child weighs 140 pounds, the pack should not be heavier than 21 pounds.
Most importantly, if your child talks about numbness or weakness in the arms or legs, contact a physician.
For parents: 3 warning signs of a heavy backpack
Your child struggles to take off or put it on
They’re leaning forward while carrying the backpack
They simply say “my back hurts.”
For students: 4 steps to lightening the load
Only take home books you really need
Don’t carry laptops, tablets, cell phones or video games
Use every backpack compartment to circulate weight evenly
Bend knees when lifting backpack
Written by Glenn Harnett