How Heavy Is Too Heavy For Your Kid’s Backpack?
Backpacks shouldn’t mean back pain!
Brookfield students head back to classes this week, and if you’re like most parents (myself included), you probably don’t think about your kids’ backpacks other than to make sure they have everything they need.
But it might be time to add it to the checklist, because the weight and size of your child’s backpack is just as crucial as what’s inside. If its packed with enough stuff to fill a small car, it’s probably smart to consider decreasing the load. And there are good reasons to do so.
There’s been a marked increase in the number of children visiting chiropractors for back, neck and shoulder pain over the past two decades, with surveys reporting that up to 64% of children suffer from intermittent back or neck pain. At Brookfield chiropractor Ascent Chiropractic, one of the first questions we always ask is “How heavy is your backpack?”
It’s not uncommon for parents to tell me their 75-pound child is wearing a backpack weighing 25 pounds all day, every day. This is especially true since the personal contact-limiting rules of the pandemic forced students to get used to carrying everything they need for the day with them instead of using a locker. That’s the kind of bad habit that will keep kids in pain and our office busy for a long time.
What problems can a heavy backpack cause?
Carrying heavy backpacks not only saps students’ energy that could be better spent on studies or sports; it can also result in a variety of health problems down the road if not remedied early enough. Vertebral stress fractures, back and neck strain, growth plate inflammation, functional scoliosis, and nerve damage in the neck and shoulders are all backpack-related injuries that are far more common than you might imagine.
In fact, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission reported over 7,500 backpack-related injuries seen in emergency rooms last year alone.
What’s more, your child’s posture can be impacted over time if they lean too far forward to compensate for the heaviness of the pack, or to counteract an unbalanced distribution of weight in the backpack.
Technology can lighten the load
The good news is that many children nowadays aren’t expected to carry multiple oversized textbooks from class to class, as children in prior generations were. Tablets and laptops have begun replacing that massive stack of extra-sized textbooks.
These technological advancements are helping kids make their packs much more manageable. But even for kids in tech-forward schools, parents should still do a check-in on their child’s bag every so often.
Here are some tips to keep their backpacks lighter and safer.
How heavy should a backpack be?
The National Safety Council recommends children shouldn’t carry more than 10% to 15% of their body weight in their backpacks. That means if you have a 40-pound kindergartener like I do, their backpack shouldn’t weigh more than about 5 pounds.
So to minimize what your kid is lugging around every day, start with your bathroom scale. Physically put the backpack on the scale and make sure it’s not more than 10% to 15% of your kid’s bodyweight.
Tips for a safe school backpack
1. Determine what they can leave at home. Find out which books kids truly require for school that day and leave the rest at home.
2. Match the backpack with the child. Get a backpack that’s the correct size for your youngster and has two shoulder straps. The pack should sit around 2 inches higher than their hips.
3. Get a pack with wide straps and a padded back. Backpacks with tight, narrow straps that dig into the shoulders can compress nerves and cause tingling, numbness, and weakness in the arms and hands.
4. Weight should be distributed evenly. Make sure your child uses both straps—and, if available, the waist strap—to evenly distribute the weight. Even if they thinks it looks cooler, don’t use backpacks with only one strap. This can lead to back and shoulder issues in the future.
5. Pack the contents strategically. Larger, heavier textbooks should be placed in the bottom of the bag, close to the child’s body. If they need to bring a change of clothes or jacket, put them in the front of the backpack.
6. Encourage your child to speak up if they’re in pain. Make sure your child tells you if they have back discomfort, tingling, or numbness.
Don’t ignore your child’s discomfort when putting on or taking off a backpack; it’s another clue that it’s excessively heavy or that the weight is unevenly distributed.
Correcting these issues early on will go a long way toward preventing future back problems.
Back pain? We can help!
If your child is experiencing back pain due to improper backpack use, we can help. At Brookfield chiropractor Ascent Chiropractic, we use gentle chiropractic adjustments to treat the underlying causes of back pain and help them reach their full health potential. Call us at 262-345-4166 or use our online scheduling tool to book an appointment today.
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