Parents of children in Elementary and Secondary school often hear the most flap about backpack safety, but the truth is, the topic concerns students of all ages.
Backpacks that are too heavy or worn the wrong way can cause pain and strain, leading to aching backs and shoulders, tingling arms, weakened muscles and stooped posture.
Whether you're walking across a college campus or through school hallways, always wear your backpack on both shoulders. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder, while fashionable, can cause one side of the body to bear the weight of the backpack, causing a child to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort.
Wearing two straps ensures the weight of the backpack is more evenly distributed.
Always remember that a backpack should only carry 10 to 15 percent or less of a person's bodyweight and should rest in the middle of the back. Only carry items that are essential for the day. If you must carry a heavy load, organize books and other items so that the heaviest items are closest to the back.
The American Occupational Therapy Association makes these suggestions:
• Select a pack with well-padded shoulder straps - Shoulders and necks have
many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and tingling in the
neck, arms, and hands when too much pressure is applied.
• Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly on the child's back - A
pack that hangs loosely from the back can pull the child backwards and
• Wear the waist belt if the backpack has one - This helps distribute the pack's
weight more evenly.
• The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back - it should
never rest more than four inches below the child's waistline.
If your child has already experienced back pain or other troubles associated with improper backpack use, a physical therapist might be able to help improve posture or correct muscle imbalances. An occupational therapist can help you choose a proper backpack and fit to prevent future problems when school gets underway. Remember, that first school bell is not that far away.
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