backpack safety

Backpack Safety




With backpack awareness day right around the corner, now is the perfect time to refresh your memory about the dos and don’ts of proper backpack wear! The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated more than 21,000 backpack-related injuries in 2003. A backpack that is too heavy or not worn properly can cause poor posture, decreased lung capacity and musculoskeletal injuries.

It is important to stay informed, recognize the signs of improper backpack use and help you child manage the load.  Here’s how:

Avoid improper carrying techniques:

  • Carrying a backpack that weighs more than 10% of your child’s body weight: If the backpack is too heavy it will cause your child to bend forward, which can eventually lead to poor posture and respiratory issues.
  • Carrying the backpack on one shoulder: Unsymmetrical carrying causes a weight shift to one side which can lead to back pain, asymmetrical spinal aligment and muscle spasms.
  • Keeping straps loose, causing the backpack to sway when your child walks: This can cause your child’s center of gravity to shift from side which may lead to loss of balance.
  • Wearing the backpack to low: This can cause forward head posture which may eventually lead to cervical muscle tightness and/or weakness. Wearing a backpack too low can also cause your child’s center of gravity to shift posteriorly which can lead to loss of balance.

Signs that you child’s backpack is too heavy:

  • Redness under the shoulder straps or neck region.
  • A change in your child’s posture while wearing the backpack.
  • Tingling, numbness or pain in the shoulder, neck and back regions.
  • Your child struggles to put the backpack on or take it off.

Tips to help your child avoid injury:

  • Check the content of your child’s backpack regularly and discuss the importance of only bringing home the necessary items.
  • Never carry a backpack that weight more than 10% of your body weight. For example, if your child weighs 50lbs, the backpack cannot weigh more than 5lbs.
  • Make sure your child wears both shoulder straps at all times. Wide and padded shoulder straps are helpful as well.
  • Buy a backpack with a padded back. That will help lessen the pressure the backpack puts on your child’s back.
  • Make sure your child wears the backpack high over the upper back and close to the body.
  • If the backpack has a waistband, make sure your child uses it! A waistband helps transfer weight from the back and shoulder region to your child’s lower trunk.

Now that your child is wearing her backpack properly, read here for tips on how to help her keep it organized!

The Proper Way to Wear a Backpack

Have you ever picked up your child’s backpack and thought to yourself, “That cannot be good for her posture or back muscles!” or “How does she lift this?”  Carrying a heavy backpack can put strain on your child’s back and shoulder muscles, which can lead to bad posture and muscle aches.  A child carries her backpack for a significant amount of time during the school year, and wearing it inappropriately can impact her posture and overall health.  Read on for tips for properly wearing a backpack.

Tips for properly wearing a backpack:

  • A loaded backpack should NEVER weigh more than 10% of your child’s total body weight (AOTA, 2013).  For example, if your child weighs 60 pounds, her backpack should only weigh 6 pounds.
  • Make sure your child positions items in the backpack with heaviest items closest to the body and lightest items toward the outside of the pack.
  • Discuss organizational strategies for backpacks with your child; make sure ONLY necessary school items are in the backpack.
  • Your child’s backpack should have padded shoulder straps to prevent strain or impingement placed on your child’s shoulder muscles or nerves.
  • Make sure the backpack rests close to the child’s body and does not hang lower than her lower back.
  • If a waist belt is provided on the backpack, make sure your child wears it to help distribute the weight of the backpack more evenly on both sides of the body. Read more

5 Back To School Backpack Tips

School is just around the corner and back-to-school shopping is in full swing! One of the most important items to buy your child is a well-fitted backpack that will ensure proper posture and comfort. Backpacks that are too heavy, too low-fitting or worn just over one shoulder can hinder a child’s spinal alignment and cause muscle strains. It is not uncommon for backpacks to cause acquired scoliosis.

5 tips to keep in mind when buying your child their new backpack

  1. Make sure to choose a backpack that has two shoulder straps. This way, weight is distributed evenly between both sides of the body. One-shoulder packs may be stylish, but can lead to spinal curvature if packed too heavy.Blue Child's Backpack
  2. A backpack should fit snugly on the lower back and should never lay below 4 inches below the waist. This way, shoulder and back muscles are not strained and a child will be able to maintain correct posture when standing and walking. A child should be able to stand up straight and not round their back or shoulders when carrying their backpack.
  3. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, a backpack should weigh no more then 15% of the child’s body weight. For example, a child weighing 100 pounds should not wear a backpack weighing more then 15 pounds.
  4. If the backpack is too heavy for the student, roller-bags are a good option. Make sure to check with school faculty to see if these are allowed within your child’s school. A heavier item, such as a large textbook, can be held in an arm instead of on the back if the backpack is too overloaded.
  5. Try to lead heavier items toward the back so that weight is evenly distributed. If certain items are not needed for the day, leave them at home to lessen the weight of the backpack.