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Is Your Child's Backpack Too Heavy?

Lighten Their Load

Often school-age children lug around backpacks that can appear to be heavy, sometimes approaching half their body weight. For children who are pre-high school aged, a full backpack should weigh no more than 10% of their body weight. For a high school or university-aged student, the backpack shouldn’t be more than 15% of their body weight.

We also tell people to pack only what they need. For example, if you’re carrying a big bottle of water consider paring that down. Heaviest objects should always be placed close to the body and at the bottom of the pack. Light or odd- shaped objects should be away from the back.

Too-heavy backpacks can trigger back- or neck-related issues like muscle strain or headaches, back, neck or arm pain and even tingling sometimes down into the arms. Kids should position shoulder straps over the shoulders – not carrying the pack all on one side. Bicycle carrier packs aren’t the best because you’re loading up one side of the upper back and shoulders.

Tips for Choosing and Wearing a Backpack

  • Select a vinyl or canvas backpack with two adjustable padded shoulder straps.
  • Look for one that features a waist strap that can be cinched down to take the load onto the hips and reduce the burden on the shoulders and upper back.
  • When putting on the backpack, it’s sometimes helpful to place it on a table or ledge if it’s heavy, so you don’t have to bend down and pick it up.
  • When lifting the backpack, use the legs and bend at the knees.
  • The backpack should be worn over both shoulders.

Free Backpack Checks in the Office

There is research that indicates that in the teenage years, more than 50% of young people experience at least one episode of lower back pain. If your child or young adult is complaining of back pain, numbness or weakness in the arms or legs, it’s important to get them checked out by a chiropractor.

In the months of September and October, we’re doing free backpack checks in the office. We’ll check for the proper posture of backpacks, and we’ll weigh backpacks to make sure they’re not too heavy. The checks are open to the community, not just our patients. No appointment is necessary.

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