Heavy backpacks can harm your children’s backs. It’s important to know the signs of improper backpack use. Continue reading to learn how to choose a backpack that will reduce the weight and pain that may be affecting your child.
When it comes to your child’s backpack for school this year, experts are saying, “Lighten the load!”
Health experts told Fox News Digital that it is important parents be sure they’re not sending their kids back to school with heavy, overweight book bags for this new school year, since heavy backpacks take more of a toll than many people may realize.
How much of a toll?
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission says an estimated annual average of 7,500 kids under 19 years old were treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to backpacks from 2017 to 2019.
One parent of a 12-year-old girl told Fox News Digital that her daughter was complaining for months about upper back and neck pain.
At first, the Long Island, NY-based mom thought her daughter’s aches and pains were due to her sports activities.
But once they saw their physician, the mom learned her daughter’s backpack was the culprit.
“She was picking up a backpack of books and going from classroom to classroom throughout the day and then carrying the bag to and from school. That’s a lot of lifting,” the mom told Fox News Digital.
Her daughter had to attend several weeks of sessions that included osteopathic manipulation to her spine for her neck and upper back strains.
She also had to start an exercise routine to strengthen her upper back to help support the load of the backpack.
Health experts said that parents and guardians should look for the following warning signs that a child’s backpack is too heavy.
- Child appears to be struggling while putting on backpack or taking it off
- Child’s posture changes (i.e. he or she leans forward or to the side) when wearing backpack
- Child experiences tingling or numbness in the arms and legs
- Child has red marks on the shoulders from the backpack straps
- Child complains of pain when wearing the backpack
Dr. David Gentile is an osteopathic physician who deals with spinal health issues in his patients at his practice in Rocky Point, New York.
The physician told Fox News Digital about the impact heavy backpacks have on a student’s posture — and said heavy backpacks can change the natural curve of the spine, affecting the child’s ability to maintain an ideal posture.
“We see it all the time in the older generation — the use of comfortable chairs at work, the sit-stand desks,” he said.
So “it’s evident we have become more aware of proper work ergonomics. Now it might be time to really educate children about these comfortable and functional changes to improve their health outcomes,” said Gentile.
The physician also said there should be a public health action to be proactive and prevent this pain in children.
Gentile said as well, “There are many ways to alleviate this unfortunate reality of back pain in young children, starting by identifying predisposing factors early on.”
He added, “The implementation of physical therapists in physical education classes and educating teachers, administrators, children and their families on appropriate ergonomics could all be beneficial.”
Edward Farrell, co-founder and Partner of Physical Solutions Physical Therapy in Bethpage, NY, told Fox News Digital that a backpack may seem an innocent back-to-school item — but it certainly can be a culprit when it comes to creating issues with a youngster’s spine.
Physical therapists offer these seven helpful tips when choosing a backpack:
- Pick a lightweight pack with a padded back and wide padded shoulder straps.
- Use both shoulder straps when carrying the backpack.
- The backpack should rest in the middle of the back, no more than four inches below the waist line.
- Choose a backpack with multiple compartments and a waist belt.
- Limit the load to less than 10%-15% of a student’s body weight (if child is 100 lbs., the backpack should not weigh more than 10-15 pounds).
- Use all compartments and place the heaviest books/items closer to the spine.
- Backpacks with wheels may seem like a good option, but they have challenges, too, such as getting them up and down the stairs and rolling them through grass and snow.