Is your child’s backpack overweight? Improper weight and carrying can cause excessive wear and tear on your child’s spine, which not only causes pain, but could lead to permanent spinal column damage; the numbers tell the tale. If a student lifts a 12 lb. backpack 10 times a day, that’s 120 lbs. per day x 180 school days per year, that’s 21,600 lbs. lifted in one school year.
To address this widespread problem, chiropractor Bruce Pearson offers some helpful tips and suggestions regarding backpack selection, packing and proper carrying.
Consider size and fit. Make sure the backpack is sturdy and appropriately sized. There are child-size versions on the market for children ages 5-10 that weigh less than a pound and have shorter back lengths and widths, so that they don’t slip around on the back. Padded shoulder straps avoid nerve pressure, and waist straps stabilize the load.
Pack it carefully. The maximum weight for loaded backpacks should not exceed 15 percent of the child’s body weight. A quick litmus test: If the pack forces the carrier to bend forward, it’s overloaded. A 50 lb. child’s pack should not exceed 7½ lbs; a 75 lb. child’s max is 11 ½ lbs.; and if the child is 100 lbs., the pack’s max weight should be 15 lbs. Balance the weight of the contents or the body will shift into unnatural postures to compensate.
Lifting and Positioning
Lift it right. Have your student face the backpack, bend at the knees, use both hands and check the weight. Lift with the legs, not the back, and carefully apply one shoulder strap at a time; never sling the pack onto one shoulder.
—Chiropractor Bruce Pearson has served patients in Plymouth and the metro area for more than 15 years, and owns and operates the Natural Chiropractic Center, located across from Life Time Fitness. He specializes in pain relief and family wellness. His community involvement includes safety presentations, health care lectures, and postural/ergonomic evaluations at health fairs and schools.