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As Prescribed Blog



As Prescribed Blog

Avoid the Backpack Drag and Sag

Sarah Macklem, LAT July 17, 2013 0 Comments Family Medicine

This Fall, when you see your child’s backpack lying around, pick it up and see just how much weight he is lugging around. If it seems like you’re picking up a bag of rocks, then it’s probably far too heavy for your child. 

Back problems related to overloaded backpacks are much more common than you may think.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that over 13,700 children ages 5 to 18 received treatment at hospitals and doctors’ offices for injuries from heavy backpacks. Stuffed with everything from lunches to laptops, a heavy backpack causes children to arch their back and bend slightly forward or lean to one side.  Poor posture can lead to misalignment of the spine because the disks are not able to support the weight of the backpack properly. 

Overstuffed backpacks put added stress on muscles and soft tissues, which results in muscle fatigue and strain.  This raises your child’s risk of injuring their neck, shoulder, or back, and can even damage the nerves. 

Here are some helpful tips to lighten the load on your kids’ backs and prevent injuries:

  • When buying a backpack for your child, look for bags with wide, padded straps to relieve the pressure on the shoulders and collarbone. 
  • Choose a backpack that is appropriate for your child’s size. 
  • Look for a lightweight bag.  Consider skipping the leather, which is heavy to begin with, and a lighter-weight fabric, like nylon.
  • Teach them to ALWAYS carry the backpack on both shoulders with the backpack sitting about 2 inches above the waist.  Use the waist strap to spread the weight of the load.
  • Backpacks should be no heavier than 10-20% of your child’s weight. 
  • Put the heaviest items closest to your child’s back to lessen the strain on the back and abdominal muscles, and use all compartments for storage to help spread the weight more evenly. 
  • Have your child stop at their locker often to take out items they don’t need.

Overall, it is helpful to be vigilant throughout the school year. As kids get older it becomes less “cool” to wear a backpack appropriately, and they will likely have even more to carry as the days go by. If you’re concerned your child has experienced neck or back strain, consider making an appointment with a primary care provider for assessment. They may the refer your child for therapy with a clinician from the Fort HealthCare Therapy & Sport Center where there are a number of experts in correcting these injuries. Of course, prevention is key, so pay extra attention when purchasing your child’s backpack and check that load often.