Backpack Safety

Backpacks are a necessary and convenient way to carry books to and from school each day. And when used correctly, they distribute weight to the strongest muscles of the body in the most practical way possible.

Below are helpful tips to insure you know how to safely use your backpack in order to promote spinal health.

The American Physical Therapy Association recommends the following for safe backpack use:

Make sure children are not carrying more than 15 percent of their bodyweight in their backpacks. A too-heavy backpack load causes muscles and soft tissues to work harder, leading to strain and fatigue.

Have children wear both straps so that the weight of the backpack will be distributed more evenly. Using only one strap, even with backpacks that have one strap that runs across the body, causes one shoulder to bear the weight of the bag.

Be sure the backpack fits. Shoulder straps should rest comfortably on the shoulders and under the arms so that the arms can move freely. The bottom of the pack should rest on the contour of the lower back. The pack should "sit" evenly in the middle of the back, not sag down toward the buttocks.

If you and your child have yet to pick a new backpack, here are a few points you may want to consider:

  1. Shoulder straps that are wide, padded and contoured help reduce pressure on the chest and shoulders.
  2. Make sure there are two shoulder straps backpacks with one shoulder strap that runs across the body cannot distribute weight evenly.
  3. Padded back – A padded back protects against sharp edges on objects inside the pack and increases comfort.
  4. Waist belts help to distribute some of the load to the pelvis.
  5. Reflective material can make a child visible to drivers at night.
  6. Wheeled backpacks should have a handle that extends far enough so that the child is not forced to twist and bend. (This could cause curvature of the spine.)
  7. The backpack itself should be lightweight and not add much weight to the load.

Backpacks are a necessary item for carrying books to and from school each day. And when used correctly, they distribute weight to the strongest muscles of the body in the most practical way possible.

For more information available on the Kid's Health for Parent's website.

You can also visit the American Academy of Pediatrics website: http://www.aap.org/ for this and other children's health topics.

This information was compiled and provided as a service of the Southington School Health Services. It is not meant to take the place of your doctor’s recommendations.

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