It's back to school shopping time already, and that often means a new backpack. Although they are practical, backpacks are a leading cause of neck, shoulder and back pain for millions of children and teens. Following these guidelines can help your child avoid unnecessary pain or injury.
Size the backpack for your child. The backpack should not be wider or longer than your child's torso, and should not hang lower than 4 inches below the waist. A pack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, and causes your child to lean forward when walking to compensate.
Pick a pack that has two wide, padded shoulder straps. Non-padded straps are not only uncomfortable, they can lead to unnecessary pressure on the neck and shoulders.
Those shoulder straps should be adjustable. This will help you fit it to your child's body, and may be adjusted as they grow. Make sure it's centered over the middle of your child's back.
Make sure your child uses both straps, rather than throwing the pack over one shoulder. Lugging a heavy pack over only one shoulder puts the load all to one side, leading to spasm, low back and neck pain, and even headaches, as well as poor posture.
The pack should have a padded back. This increases comfort, and lessens the risk of your child being poked with a pencil, compass, ruler, book edge or other sharp object.
Choose a pack with several compartments. This helps position the contents more effectively. Pack sharp objects away from your child's back, and place the heaviest items closest to your child's body.
Finally, never over pack. The generally accepted safe guideline is 5-10% of your child's weight. This means a 100 pound child should never carry a pack heavier than 10 pounds, and a 50 pound child should never carry more than 5 pounds at most.
We're here if you have any questions. If your child complains of headaches, neck, low back or shoulder pain that is getting worse, or just not getting better, bring them in for an evaluation, and gentle care, if needed.