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School Backpacks: Hauling Homework Safely

8/28/15 12:30 PM
By this point in the year, school children of all ages are preparing to load up their backpacks with all of those new supplies and textbooks. Study halls can help ease the overwhelming nature of being mid-school year, but what happens when those books & binders need to be hauled home?

In a recent study led bPicturey Shelley Goodgold, PT, 55% of the children surveyed carried backpack loads heavier than recommended. These overloaded & improperly fit backpacks can cause various back problems in growing children. In this same study, one third of the children reported back pain that led them to seek medical attention, miss days of school, or abstain from physical activities.

Choose the Right Backpack & Fit it Properly...

  • Straps -  Choosing a backpack with two, wide-padded straps will help to balance and distribute the load across the shoulders. The padding will provide more comfort and avoid cutting into the shoulders. Encourage your child to always wear both straps!
  • Hip Belts - Properly fitted hip belts help to prevent the back pack from swaying side-to-side and will transfer some of the weight from the back & shoulders, to the hips & torso. This distributes the weight across various muscle groups, instead of burdening one area with the entire load.
  • Size - Try each of the packs on. Choose a backpack that is no larger than the child's back.
  • Weight - The pack itself shouldn't really add much extra weight to the load being carried. There are many lightweight options available. Encourage your child to keep the load of books light. Planning ahead can help to avoid the need to carry large amounts of heavy books at one time. How heavy is too heavy? Backpack loads should be kept to 15% or less of the child's body weight. 

Signs that a Backpack is Too Heavy...

  • Look for changes in posture when wearing the back pack. Any noticeable changes are likely an indication the load is too heavy.
  • Struggle when putting on or taking the back pack off. It should be relatively easy to wield on and off.
  • Any complaints of pain while wearing the pack. Hauling your homework should not be physically painful!
  • Complaints of tingling, numbness, or red marks on the shoulders are also a sign that the load is too heavy or the backpack is just not the right fit.

Have a question on your child's backpack? You can easily submit your question to us online. One of our Physical Therapists will be happy to answer any questions you might have regarding backpack safety or any symptoms your child might be experiencing.


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Topics: tips, back pain, tips for children