The kids oooh and aaahhh over the rows of school backpacks that adorn the malls and stores around the back to school shopping season. Adorned with cartoon characters and in a variety of colors and styles, kids could get a roller bag, a cross over satchel or a traditional backpack. In 2009 the New York Times wrote a post about the average weight a 6th grader is carrying around.
“On average, 6th graders in the study were carrying backpacks weighting 18.4 pounds, although some backpacks weighed as much as 30 pounds. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child’s backpack weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of a child’s weight.”
Texas Back Institute’s Dr. Rey Bosita, an orthopedic spine surgeon, has talked about some ways that parents can make sure their children are wearing backpacks correctly. As the father of four young boys, he says it’s important for parents to take necessary measures to ensure their kids get on that school bus feeling their best and without any risk of injury from their backpacks. I opted to get my daughter a rolling backpack for the purposes of preserving her back.
Dr. Bosita says the top four complaints from high-school aged kids and elementary school children is from ill-fitting and improperly worn backpacks include:
Lower back pain
Risks of a heavy backpack:
May distort the natural curve of the back leading to strained muscles and irritate the spine joints and even the rib cage.
Can lead to rounded shoulders
Will cause a person to lean forward which throws balance off making it easier to fall
Tips to prevent back pain from backpacks:
· Buy a backpack with wider, padded straps and a waist strap
· Load heavier items (such as books) closer to the body
· The backpack should not weigh more than 10%-15% of the child’s weight
(50 lb child = 5 lb backpack)
· Making sure the backpack drops no more than four inches below the waist when full
· Look for one with multiple compartments for varied uses but not so many that kids feel like they have to fill it up
· Buy a smaller backpack
· Don’t wait for your children to complain about aches or pains. Ask them if their backpacks are comfortable and remind them to tell you if the comfort changes and pain starts. To learn more about back and neck pain, check out TexasBackInstitute.com.