With multiple backpacks to choose from in regards to appearance, it is important to make sure you try to purchase the perfect fit for your child and not necessarily the best looking backpack. Size and cushioning are essential and should be taken into consideration since it can cause muscle strains or excess shoulder and neck pressure if not addressed. With an adjustable back pack, make sure it is no higher than an individual’s shoulders and no lower than their hips. The bottom of the backpack should rest in the curve of a child’s lower back.
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, more than 79 million students across the U.S. carry heavy loads that cause lower back pain into adulthood. It is common that students are carrying bags that weigh more than they do and it is also affecting their posture in a negative way. A rule of thumb is that backpacks should only weigh about 10 percent of the student’s body weight. In order to decrease some excess weight, you can make sure that everything in the backpack is necessary and needed at that time. You can also consider having the child carry a book if the backpack is too heavy. When putting objects in a backpack, make a conscious effort to have the heaviest items in the main portion of the backpack closest to the back of the student. Weight should also be evenly dispersed on both sides of the body so that way the student’s shoulders do not experience as much strain. When picking up a backpack (and anything in general), it is important to bend and lift using your knees rather than the waist since it puts extra stress on the back and prevents injury. Using two straps is recommended for a child’s spinal health and comfort. Backpacks with waist belts can also help distribute the weight evenly with a fully loaded backpack.
Research suggests that wearing a backpack incorrectly, wearing one that is too heavy, the amount of time one carries a backpack, the distance walked, inadequate distribution of weight in the backpack, and poor placement of items in the backpack can be contributing risk factors to back and neck problems. Be sure to keep in mind the size, cushioning, straps, and lifting recommendations. This will help you be more aware and prevent inadequate backpack wearing for your child.
Would you like to learn more about pediatric occupational therapy?
Contact Chicago Occupational Therapy or call (773) 980-0300 to learn more about our services for children, including applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.