No parent wants her child to bear too much weight on his shoulders, but he might leave for school every morning carrying just that — a heavy, uncomfortable backpack.
"It is estimated that at least half of all student backpacks are too heavy for children to be carrying," Brett Wartenberg of New Jersey Chiropractic Association said. "As a result, doctors and chiropractors are seeing more children than ever complaining of back pain, which can have long-term health implications." The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child not carry more than 10 to 20 percent of his body weight on his back daily.
Along with back pain, students can suffer from headaches, posture problems and various other health problems.
The warning signs that a child's backpack might be causing a problem are:
· Struggling while taking off or putting on the backpack.
· Leaning forward to carry the bag.
· Numbness or weakness in the arms and/or legs.
· One shoulder stays higher than the other.
But with a few simple adjustments, you can make your child's backpack more comfortable.
You know that fit is everything when it comes to clothing, and the same is true for backpacks. Before your kid heads off to school, try these expert tips from the Good Housekeeping Research Institute and the Chiropractic Association:
- Choose a backpack that has wide, cushioned straps and distributes weight on the shoulders evenly.
- Make sure the backpack fits properly. The straps should not be so tight that the pack goes above the collar line or is wider than the shoulders. It also should be adjusted tightly enough so the weight of the pack rests on the lower back.
- Clip sternum and waist straps together — they help to distribute the backpack's weight so shoulders are less burdened.
- The weight of the loaded backpack should not be more than 15 percent of the person's total body weight, particularly for small children. Students should pack the heaviest objects first so they are carried lower and closer to the body, and they should pack only essential items.
- Check the weight of the backpack. Face the backpack before picking it up. Bend at the knees and make sure to lift with the legs, not with the back. Put on one strap at a time.
- Don't sling the backpack over one shoulder. Messenger-style bags, which get slung over one shoulder, should be avoided.
- Ask the school if extra copies of heavy textbooks are available to keep at home for homework, so your child doesn't have to lug them home each night. If your child leans forward while carrying his backpack, it's too heavy.
- Have your child try on the backpack before the start of each new school year. "Kids grow relatively quickly between the ages of 8 and 16, so what fits one year might not fit well the next year," says Jordan Metzl, M.D., a nationally recognized sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.