And it’s not just for your kids. Maybe you’ve decided to go back to school to finish a new degree or prefer to carry your personal and work items in a backpack.
Carrying a heavy backpack puts a lot of strain on the shoulders and back, but it can also influence you or your child’s posture. To balance the weight of a heavy bag, the body will compensate by leaning forward. This counterbalance can contribute to head forward posture, which you can learn more about here.
The American Chiropractic Association has recommended a few steps to help minimize the negative effects of carrying heavy backpacks. We've shared them with you below, along with a few of our own.
Tips for purchasing a new pack:
If you’ve already purchased a new backpack for the school year, it might not be too late. Many stores allow refunds for certain periods of time and if the backpack you purchased is causing your child pain, it will be worthwhile to keep looking for the right pack. Otherwise, you will find tips below on how to make the best of the backpack you have.
- Be selective. Look for ergonomically designed packs that distribute weight evenly along the shoulders and spine. Ask your chiropractor for suggestions, and have him look at the fit of a pack you have.
- Go small. The smaller the pack, the less likely your child is to overload it with books and other materials. Look for packs that feature special compartments for different types of items— such as pencils, calculators, books, or folders.
- Select wide, padded straps. Backpacks that are designed with broader straps and ample padding are much more comfortable — and healthier.
How to use a backpack wisely:
- Lighten up. Aim for a backpack weight of no more than 10 percent of your child’s body weight. That means if your child weighs 85 pounds, her pack shouldn’t exceed 8.5 pounds. If your child is required to carry weight above that 10 percent, talk to your child’s teacher about ways to reduce the load.
- Position correctly. A properly adjusted backpack will create less stress on the back. Make sure the pack doesn’t hang too low (four inches or more below the waist) which can strain the back.
- Two is better than one. Educate your child about the importance of wearing both shoulder straps, which will distribute weight more evenly.
- But, three is is better than two. Some backpacks come with a waist strap that can be snapped into place once you have the pack on with both straps. This waist strap can help distribute the weight even more evenly and help minimize the counterbalance of leaning forward with the head and shoulders.
- Check the weights regularly. Your child is learning a lot and you can help teach them the importance of checking the contents of the packs. Studies have shown that kids whose parents check their packs regularly tend to carry lighter backpacks than kids whose parents never check the contents and weight. Setting up a weekly check, such as on Sunday nights can help make this easier.
If you or your child experience tingling or numbness in the hands, or discomfort in the back or neck after wearing a backpack, discontinue use and seek the advice of your doctor of chiropractic.
Here at A Healing Space, we can get you in to see Dr. Adam for help with these areas. If you or your child is experiencing pain and/or discomfort, don’t wait too long to seek help. Start the school year off right and don’t let a backpack hold you back!