Kids are a blessing and it is important we do all we can to keep them safe and healthy. Backpacks have become a necessity in the lives of most kids and due to this, we must be well versed on backpack safety for kids. This is a topic I was always going to cover.
There is a popular saying that “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” Pondering about that statement I ask myself if most of the habits kids show these days were gotten from watching their elders.
Some kids wear their backpacks on just one side of their shoulders. Some of them hold the straps of their backpacks with their hand and don’t even bother wearing it on their back.
I know of a kid that stays close to me that uses a backpack with just one strap. This kid would always look cool and I would always wonder how does this kid always look like this. I happened to come across the dad and guess what, almost everything I noticed about the kid I also saw on the dad.
The haircut was the same, their way of dressing and even the backpack the dad carried. It was also a one-strapped backpack.
Now I am not here to judge anyone all I am saying is let us be careful of what we show our kids. In trying to be cool that kid might be hurting himself without even knowing it.
Have you ever noticed your child trying to struggle when putting on their backpacks? Have you maybe tried carrying their backpacks and noticed it was like they were packing books for the whole class?
These are signs that should tell you to take actions that can ensure your child’s health condition.
It is assumed that back pains are common on only adults but the trends these days tells us otherwise. It is becoming increasingly common for kids complaining about back or shoulder pain.
This trend is disturbing because kids are not supposed to be experiencing back pains. They are experiencing back pains much earlier than previous generations and studies has shown that one of the factors that might be contributing to this is heavy backpacks.
Occurrences Due to Carrying a Heavy/unfit Backpack
When we carry our packs our back and abdominal muscles which are the strongest muscles in our body helps us support the weight of the backpack. For this to be able to function efficiently we have to carry the right amount of weight.
Due to the heavyweight carried by a child, the child tends to hyperextend his or her back or lean the head and trunk forward to compensate for the weight of the pack. This posture is not normal because it can stress the muscles in the neck and back which in turn increases the risk of injury and fatigue.
The curves in the middle and lower back can become distorted and this can cause irritation to the spine and the rib cage.
When a kid wears the backpack on just one shoulder, due to the weight been concentrated on just one side of the shoulder, it might result in the child leaning towards that one side in other to compensate for that heavyweight.
Carrying the backpack on just one shoulder may also cause upper back pain and strain in the shoulders and neck. When a child wears a heavy backpack, about 25 percent of their body weight can have balance problems and this can increase the risk of the child falling.
Also, they find it difficult to perform normal activities such as opening doors or climbing stairs.
There are some backpacks with narrow straps that dig into the shoulders. This can interfere with circulation and nerves. Also, these types of backpacks with narrow straps can lead to tingling, numbness, and weakness in the arms and hands.
These type of backpacks might be ok for young adults but I don’t think kids should wear backpacks with narrow straps especially heavy backpacks with narrow straps.
Studies on Some Kids With Backpain
According to Dr. Scott Bautch, a member of ACA’s (American Chiropractic Association) Council on Occupational Health, the number of kids complaining about back, neck and shoulder pains are on the rise.
The first question he always asks his young patients is if they carry a backpack to school and almost always their answer is yes.
Also, according to Dr. Bautch, a study conducted in Italy showed that the average child carries a backpack that is equivalent to a 39-pound burden for a 176-pound man or a 29-pound load for a 132-pound woman.
The shocking part of this study showed that of the kids carrying heavy backpacks to school 60 percent of these kids experience back pain as a result.
The American Chiropractic Association also reported that the preliminary results of studies conducted in France reported that the longer a child wears a heavy backpack, the longer it takes for curvature or deformity of the spine to correct itself.
A lot of people are becoming aware of these and for that reason, some states have passed laws that would force schools to come up with ways in which the weight of the student’s school backpacks can be reduced.
Picking The Right Backpacks For Kids
Looking at backpack safety for kids, one of the vital things to consider is picking the right backpack for your kid. With backpacks coming in different shapes, colors and sizes we need to know how to pick the right fit for our kids so they can be comfortable and avoid future complications.
- Choose a backpack with an ergonomic design
- Choose a backpack with lightweight materials. Most preferable go for packs that are either made of vinyl or canvas materials. These are lighter than leather backpacks.
- Go for a backpack with wide shoulder straps. The straps should be at least two inches wide and should not be too snugly around the shoulder or armpit.
- Pick a backpack with a waist belt and a padded back. Do you know that a strap or a waist belt can take as much as 50-70% of the weight off the shoulders and spine and would also help equalize the strain on the bones, joints, and muscles? Also, a padded pack protects the back against sharp edges on objects inside the pack.
- Always go for a backpack with multiple compartments and if making use of the compartments make sure you don’t make use of only one compartment. Making use of multiple compartments helps distribute the weight evenly.
- Go for packs with the right fit. I encourage people that if you are getting a backpack for a kid make sure that kid goes with you so they can try out different sizes to know just the right fit for them. Make sure the top does not extend higher than the top of the shoulder of the kid wearing it and also the bottom should not go lower than the hip bone.
- Pick a backpack with compression straps on the sides or bottom to stabilize the contents in the pack
Please note that although rolling backpacks are an option to help reduce the load on the child’s back some schools might not allow their usage because they can clutter hallways and result in dangerous trips and falls. They are also very difficult to carry up the stairs.
Playing Your Part
What can you do as a parent or guardian or a caring person concerning the backpack safety of kids
- Regularly weigh their backpacks to know how much they carry. The American Physical Therapy Association recommends that children carry backpacks of no more than 15 percent of their body weight. If a child weighs 50 pounds, their backpack should contain no more than 7.5 pounds. A child weighing 100 pounds should carry no more than 15 pounds on their back.
- Check how they wear their backpacks. When lifting the packs let them use both legs and arms and bend at the knees. Also, watch how they put on their backpacks to see if it is a struggle. If it seems like they are struggling it might mean that their backpack is too heavy. Have them remove some items in their backpacks and if possible they should hold it on their arms to reduce the load on their back.
- Inspect their packs and make sure pointy objects are packed away from the parts that rest on their backs.
- Encourage your kids to always wear both shoulder straps. If our kids are to wear their backpacks on just one side of their shoulders we should encourage them to make sure they switch sides regularly. If they use the right side today they should make use of the left side the next day. This can help keep their spine in the right position and prevent gravitational pull on just one side of the shoulder. But it is best to make sure they wear both straps.
- Talk to the child’s teacher if they can leave the heavier books at school and bring home only the lighter materials.
- You can check if the pack is too snugly by sliding your hand between the backpack and your child’s back.
- Always encourage your kid to make use of their backpacks waist straps/chest straps. It is not there for show. It is meant to be used.
- Encourage your child to make sure they clean their backpack out every night and repack it for the next day. By doing this they won’t carry a backpack with things that are not needed.
- Consider buying a second set of textbooks for kids that are students to keep at home. By doing this they can leave their textbooks at school and only bring home things like handouts and a few other items.
- Make sure you always encourage your kids to tell you if they feel any numbness, tingling or discomfort in the arms or legs. These sorts of symptoms may indicate poor backpack fit or too much load been carried.
- If your kids are in school always inform them that they should try to stop regularly at their locker throughout the day to drop off or exchange heavier books. A child should never carry more than 15 percent of their weight.
How To Properly Wear A Backpack
- Ensure your kids pack only what is needed for that day. If for any reason their pack is heavy, it should not be more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight. Let them carry only what is necessary and let them make use of their lockers or desk frequently during the day.
- The heavier objects should be placed close to the body and the light or the pointy objects should be away from the back. The heavier items are packed first so that they are placed closer to the body.
Kids wear backpacks on a regular basis and it is vital that we don’t overlook the backpack safety of kids.
If you or your child experience any pain or discomfort resulting from backpack use, consider visiting a doctor of chiropractic (DC). DCs are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages and will use a gentler type of treatment for children.
In addition, DCs can also prescribe exercises designed to help children develop strong muscles, along with instruction in good nutrition, posture and sleeping habits.
Please note that the information contained on this Web page should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your doctor may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.