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Published on September 07, 2018

Picking the Right Backpack

Child carrying backpack

With kids back in school, it is important to learn proper backpack safety to protect your children’s posture and prevent injury.

If your back-to-school shopping includes a new backpack this year, choose one that has features such as:

  • Wide padded straps and back.
  • Hip and chest belts.
  • Multiple compartments.
  • Reflective material.

These added safety and comfort features help to better distribute the weight of the pack and reduce pressure on the child’s back.

If your child is complaining of back pain, or a tingling or numbness in the legs while wearing their backpack, it may be too heavy or not properly positioned on their back. Other signs that a backpack is too heavy or not fitted properly that you may notice include your child struggling to put the backpack on or that they lean forward while carrying the backpack. First, try removing unnecessary items from the backpack to lighten it and make sure the straps are positioned properly. Properly fitting the backpack with the shoulder straps can significantly reduce discomfort. Using the shoulder straps, position the backpack so that it sits over the strongest mid-back muscles, allowing it to rest evenly. Straps should not be too loose, and the backpack should not extend below the low back.

Another important safety measure to keep in mind when fitting your child’s backpack is to lighten the load whenever possible. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 -15 percent of the child’s body weight. Organize the contents of the backpack by placing the heaviest items closest to the back and only carry items that are required for the day. Physical therapists also like to emphasize that children always wear both straps. Wearing one strap causes one side of the body to bear the entire weight of the backpack. By wearing both shoulder straps, the weight of the backpack is better distributed and will promote better body posture.

Ronald Pemberton is a licensed physical therapist assistant at Cone Health Outpatient Rehabilitation Center at Adams Farm.

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