Re-posted with permission from Happenings Magazine

Class is in session! As the work load begins to pile up in schools, it’s important to notice the backpacks children are carrying. Overloading a backpack or wearing it improperly will dramatically increase the risk of back injuries.

Seek a backpack that comes with a padded back to reduce pressure on the body. Hip and chest belts and multiple compartments will evenly distribute weight from the back and shoulders to the hips and torso. Store the heaviest items in the compartment closest to the body. Place lighter items in the outside compartments. Keep an eye out for a bag that offers compression straps which are useful for stabilizing the contents of the backpack and reducing pressure on the body. Finally, make sure that it includes reflective material to increase night-time visibility.

It is important that children use both shoulder straps. Wearing both straps will even out the amount of weight resting on each side of the body, promoting a more symmetrical, well-aligned posture. “A backpack should be snug to the back directly between the child’s shoulder blades,” advised Janine Kane, a physical therapist at Allied Services. “Lower back injuries could be caused by wearing a backpack too low, while wearing one too high could cause neck pain.” In essence, a backpack should match the size of the child. The rule of thumb is that the weight of a backpack should not exceed 15 percent of a child’s body weight.

There are warning signs that a child’s backpack is too heavy. Notice if the child has a change in his or her posture when wearing the backpack or struggles to put it on and take it off. Other common signs are pain when wearing the bag, tingling or numbness and red marks. Allied Services’ physical therapists can address a variety of backpack-induced postural pain. Call 570-348-1332.