Tips for Backpack Safety

In 2014, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that “at least 14,000 children are treated for backpack-related injuries every year.” When you add together the weight of notebooks, binders, folders, textbooks, other school supplies, and lunch, you’re looking at a significant amount of stress being placed on the small shoulders of your child. Generally speaking, if a child complains about the weight of their backpack or reveal the angry red marks from their shoulder straps, then the weight is too much. Backpack safety is a generally unspoken about topic, but the injuries that a child can get from their backpack are quite significant.

Unknown Backpack Risks

Although mostly “grown-ups” report back, neck, and shoulder pain, there are many children (and the number is rising) who visit chiropractors for this same pain. As the weight in their backpacks increase, so too does the potential damage to their bodies. The neck and upper back are the most obvious spots of strain. Heavy backpacks cause the head and upper back to lean forward and round (by extending the neck) to compensate for the extra weight and stay balanced. This also creates shoulder pain as well as potential hip pain (from leaning too far forward). The difference in posture can lead to lower back pain as the body tries to adjust to the weight of the backpack. Lastly, knee pain is possible too “because of a change in walking pattern and body posture.”

The “Perfect” Backpack

At this point, we know that you’re waiting for us to reveal the ultimate backpack for your child. The good news is: The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) created some guidelines for picking the right backpack. They also have some suggestions of general backpack safety that your child should know.

The Key Characteristics of a Safe Backpack

  •       lightweight material
  •       two padded, wide (at least two inches), adjustable shoulder straps
  •       padded back area
  •       individual compartments (rather than just one large space)
  •       waist belt (which will help redistribute the weight of the backpack.)
  •       not wider or longer than your child’s torso

Backpack Safety

  1. Always wear the backpack using both shoulder straps (although it may seem cool to have it hang off one shoulder!).
  2. Keep the weight of the backpack at 10-15% of your child’s body weight. By cleaning the compartments about once a week, you’ll probably be able to get rid of some of the weight that they don’t need anymore.
  3. Weight distribution is important: Pack the heaviest items first so they lean against the back, then pack the compartments evenly.      
  4. When grabbing the backpack, lift from the legs rather than the back.
  5. Adjust straps so the backpack rests two inches above the waist (anything lower can cause more shoulder stress, and anything higher can lead to hunching). Also make sure the shoulders straps are pulled snugly and evenly.
Kelly Chiropractic 9390 Ford Ave Suite #2
Richmond Hill, GA 31324
(912) 756-8080