However, if they don’t know exactly how to choose, load, lift and wear a backpack properly, back pain, neck pain and shoulder pain will soon follow. I recently came across a study that found more than 50% of young people experience at least on episode of back pain by their teenage years. Research has shown that this could be caused by improper backpack use.
Carrying a heavy load that is unevenly or improperly distributed can result in poor posture which will result in misalignments of the spinal column. This can result in muscle strains, headaches, neck and arm pain and even nerve damage. How can parents avoid these conditions from occurring in their children? Prevention is key!
Choosing the best backpack:
Leather may look great but it is a heavy material with minimal breathability. Go for vinyl, nylon or canvas, these are more lightweight. Choose a pack that with two wide, adjustable, padded shoulder straps, along with a hip or waist strap, padded back and plenty of pockets. Make sure the pack fits properly, is not too snug around the arms and under the armpits, and that its size is proportionate to the wearer’s body.
Packing it properly:
Make sure your children’s packs contain only what is needed for that day, and that the weight is distributed evenly. Most of the weight should be positioned against the child's back. Heavier, odd shaped and bulky items should be placed on the outside away from the back, towards the bottom and not shoved into the top at the last minute. It’s a good idea to know roughly what each item weighs. The total weight of the filled pack should be no more than 10 to 15 per cent of child’s own body weight.
Putting the backpack on:
It’s a good idea to help young children with this, at least the first few times. Put the pack on a flat surface, at waist height. Slip on the pack, one shoulder at a time, then adjust the straps to fit comfortably. When lifting backpacks, make sure the child always bends at the knees and minimizes the twisting involved in fitting the backpack.
Wearing it the right way:
Both shoulder straps should be used, and adjusted so that the pack fits snugly to the body, without dangling to the side. Backpacks should never be worn over just one shoulder. You should be able to slide your hand between the backpack and your child’s back. The base of the pack should be no lower than the top of the hip bone. The top of the pack should be no higher than the shoulders. The waist strap should also be worn for added stability.
If your child complains of pain, numbness or weakness in the arms and legs, visit your local chiropractor to get help and prevent any future problems.