08-15-2011 (Dayton, OH) -
With the beginning of a new school year looming in the not so distant future, it is time to begin back to school shopping. However, before you join the mass of people at your local supply store you may want to consider the best features in backpack choices.
Every year children lug home many pounds of books each night. With this added pressure on their still developing bones, tissue and muscle, the added stress could give them long term injuries.
“Backpacks are designed to distribute the weight of the load among some of the body's strongest muscles,” says James T. Lehner, MD, a pediatric orthopedic specialist at The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. “However, backpacks that are too heavy or are worn incorrectly can cause injured muscles and joints. This can lead to severe back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems.”
It is recommended that children should only be carrying 10% to 15% of their body weight. In an average 80 pound child, he or she should only be carrying eight to twelve pounds in their back packs.
Here are a few recommended features that will help you find the best backpack:
- Wide, padded shoulder straps— Narrow straps can dig into shoulders. This can cause pain and restrict circulation.
- Two shoulder straps— Backpacks with one shoulder strap that runs across the body cannot distribute weight evenly.
- Padded back— A padded back protects against sharp edges on objects inside the pack and increases comfort.
- Waist strap— A waist strap can distribute the weight of a heavy load more evenly.
- Lightweight backpack— The backpack itself should not add much weight to the load.
- Rolling backpack— This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs. They may also be difficult to roll in snow.
To prevent injury when using a backpack, take the following precautions:
- Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles. Wearing a backpack on one shoulder may increase curvature of the spine.
- Tighten the straps so that the pack is close to the body. The straps should hold the pack two inches above the waist.
- Pack light. The backpack should ideally not weigh more than 20 percent of the student's total body weight.
- Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.
- Stop often at school lockers, if possible. Do not carry all of the books needed for the day.
- Bend using both knees, when you bend down. Do not bend over at the waist when wearing or lifting a heavy backpack.
- Learn back-strengthening exercises to build up the muscles used to carry a backpack.
- Ask your pediatrician for advice on preventing back injuries.
Parents also can help in the following ways:
- Encourage your child or teenager to tell you about pain or discomfort that may be caused by a heavy backpack. Do not ignore any back pain in a child or teenager. Ask your pediatrician for advice.
- Talk to the school about lightening the load. Encourage schools to allow students to stop at their lockers throughout the day if possible. Team up with other parents to promote changes.
Consider buying a second set of textbooks for your student to keep at home.
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