As kids head back to school, now is a great time to refresh yourself on the best tips for choosing, loading and wearing backpacks (or book bag). In fact, you might even want to make backpack checks part of your daily school routine to remind your kids why carrying backpacks the right way is so important to how they feel and move. So here are our favorite guidelines on school bags and how to help give your kids an easy, pain-free year!
Ways Backpacks Put Strain on Your Child’s Back
Carrying backpacks to, from and around school all day puts a strain on your child’s back. If not carried right, over time, this strain can and most likely will lead to back pain in your child. Here are a few reasons why improper backpack use can cause back and neck pain:
- Puts strain on the natural spinal curves in the mid and lower back, which can lead to muscle soreness, back and neck pain
- Causes your child to lean forward to balance weight, which impacts his or her balance and increases your child’s risk of falling
- Can lead to rounding shoulders and poor posture
How to Get the Best Backpack Fit
Choosing the right size school bag for your child is the best place to start when you’re looking for a good ergonomic fit. They can range from 11” for younger children to up to 19” for teens and adults. Here’s a handy guide to help you find the right height and width as well as tips for how to measure your child for the right fit.
To find the right height:
- Measure the length of your child from shoulder line (where the backpack shoulders rest) to waistline (right around the belly button)
- Add two inches to this measurement
Double Check: Your child’s backpack should land two inches below their shoulders and up to four inches below their waist.
To find the right width:
- Measure between the ridges of your child’s shoulder blades.
- Adding an extra inch or two here is acceptable.
Double Check: Because the core and hip muscles usually carry the most weight, it’s important your child’s school bag fits centered between the shoulder blades.
Best features to look for:
- A lightweight bookbag to help manage the overall weight your child carries
- A padded back to help lessen the pressure on the back
- Wide padded straps to provide better circulation (helps prevent tingling or numbness in arms)
- Chest or waist straps to help transfer some of the weight to the hips and pelvis
- Multiple compartments to help balance the weight
How to Load Your Backpack
Backpacks can carry quite a bit if you chose to fill them up. But a full backpack isn’t necessarily the best thing for your child’s back. To help manage and monitor the weight, here are a few simple rules to follow:
- Weigh it. Try not to pack it with any more than 15 percent of your child’s weight. That means a child that weighs 100 lbs. shouldn’t carry a backpack heavier than 15 pounds.
- Load it smartly. Put the heaviest items closest to your child’s back to help distribute the weight properly and lessen the impact on posture.
- Only carry what you need. Pack only the items that you need for the school day!
- Go for a wheeled backpack. If you follow these tips and it’s still too heavy? Consider getting a backpack on wheels.
How to Wear Your Backpack
Wearing your backpack properly is probably the most important point to make with your kids and one of the key reasons a daily backpack check might be a good idea for your household. Here’s a checklist to help you coach your kids in proper backpack wearing techniques:
- Wear both straps
- Tighten the straps to fit snugly on your back
- Make sure you can put your backpack on and take it off easily
- Make sure it rests evenly on the middle of your back
- Lift it using your legs and using both hands
Bottom Line on Backpacks
If you follow these simple steps, you’re well on your way to making sure your kids don’t have back pain from their backpacks this year. As always, staying active and strengthening your muscles is one of the most effective ways you can help your child avoid injuries in the future. If at any time they do experience pain, encourage them to talk to you about it, make adjustments where necessary, and if it continues, call your local AlignLife chiropractor to see how we can help.