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Imagine leaving for work every day carrying a couple of 10-pound bags of sugar or flour strapped to your back. You wouldn't think of doing that, would you? Yet, every day, we send our children to school with the equivalent of that on their backs, or, more likely, flung over one shoulder. It's called a backpack, and every school child carries one every day.
More than 40 million teens carry a backpack every day, often lifting and hauling 30 to 40 pounds of books and other items around with them.
It's no wonder that backpack-related injuries are on the rise. A heavily loaded backpack, especially when worn improperly, puts kids off balance, promotes poor posture, causes numbness and muscle soreness, increases low back and shoulder pain, and could threaten spinal development.
It's important that your child carry no more than 10 to 15% of their body weight in a backpack.
Here are some tips:
- Distribute the weight of the backpack evenly - it should rest in the middle of your child's back, not extend past the low back
- Match the size of the backpack to the size of the child
- Adjust the straps so your child can easily put on and remove the backpack, and have free movement of their arms
- Put heavier items on the bottom of the backpack
- Make sure your child uses both straps, and doesn't carry the backpack over one shoulder
- Choose a backpack with padded shoulder straps and a lumbar support or cushion
- Don't overload the backpack - carry only what is necessary
- Make sure your child lifts the backpack properly, bending their knees to pick it up