Oh, my aching back.
A common refrain from the older generation could become a common complaint from students.
All too often youngsters struggle to put on their backpacks, or they are bent forward or arching their backs while carrying them.
“Did you know that carrying too much weight in a backpack, or wearing it the wrong way, can cause a lot of problems for kids such as backaches, neck and shoulder pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in the arms and hands?” says Ochsner's Dr. Yolonda Webb. “It can also weaken muscles and hurt their posture in the short and long term.”
A good rule of thumb is a backpack should not weigh more than 15 percent of the student's weight, Webb says. So the backpack of a 100-pound student shouldn’t weigh more than 15 pounds.
Backpacks come in a variety of sizes for different ages. Choose one that's lightweight with a padded back and wide shoulder straps and that's appropriate for your child’s size. The height of the backpack should extend from approximately 2 inches below the shoulder blades to waist level or slightly above the waist. Multiple compartments can help distribute the weight more evenly.
Here are a few tips on how to properly wear a backpack:
- Load heaviest items closest to the student's back (back of pack near shoulder straps) and arrange books and materials so they don’t slide around by using all compartments.
- Distribute weight evenly by wearing both straps. Wearing a pack over one shoulder may seem like a cooler trend, but it can cause a student to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort.
- Adjust the shoulder straps so that the backpack fits snugly on the back. The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back.
- Encourage your child to pick up the backpack the right way to avoid back injuries; bend at the knees and grab the pack with both hands when lifting the pack to the shoulders.
- Determining backpack weight is important, and students should learn when the backpack exceeds the 15 percent rule so they can remove items.
Persuade your children to use their lockers frequently throughout the day instead of carrying the entire day’s worth of books in their backpacks.
Above all, urge your children to tell you if they are in pain.