Backpack pic
With summer coming to an end and September in full swing, it’s officially back to school time for most elementary and middle schools. It’s that time of year for back to school shopping for a new set of pencils, erasers, binder and of course the backpack to put them all in.  Although it’s always hard for students to get moving again once the school year starts, make sure it’s just no their backpacks that are holding them down.
This Wednesday, September 16th marks The American Occupational Therapy Association National School Backpack Awareness Day. The awareness comes from helping students understand proper backpack use to keep them healthy throughout the school year. “Educating students and parents is key to preventing musculoskeletal conditions that can last into adulthood,” (1).
It is reported, “more than 79 million students in the United States carry school backpacks,” (2). That’s a lot of backpacks! Unfortunately, of those 79 million students, over half are carrying backpacks that are too heavy for them. “About 55% of students carry a backpack that is heavier than the recommended guideline of 10% of the student’s total body weight,” (2). With improper backpack use stem underlying strains, sprains, dislocations and fractures from backpacks that are reported on a year-to-year basis from physician’s office to emergency rooms.
Here are a few tips to share with your child to keep their physical health in tip-top shape!
Loading the Backpack:

  • A child shouldn’t be wearing a backpack more then 10% of their total bodyweight
  • Lighter items should be placed in the front of the backpack and any heavier materials should be placed in the back center of the backpack
  • Use various pockets and other compartments to distribute weight
  • Make sure all sharp items are away from the back
  • If the backpack is too heavy, consider having them carry any books or other materials by hand
  • If there is no way to lighten the pack, try using a book bag on wheels

Wearing the Backpack:

  • Teach your child to pick up the backpack by bending and lifting in the knees instead of the waist to prevent back injury
  • The bottom of the backpack should not rest more than 4 inches below the waistline
  • Chose a backpack with added cushion on the shoulder strap and make sure they are adjusted so the pack fits snug on the child’s back (if a backpack hangs lose, it can pull the child back causing muscle strains)
  • Use both straps to distribute the weight evenly
  • Wear the backpacks waist band for additional support

The best way to hold your child accountable for proper backpack weight is to clean their backpack out at least once a week. It will help monitor what they are bringing to and home from school, making sure the items they are transporting are necessary. Ultimately, it’s an early way for children to take an early responsibility for their physical health. However, if the backpack is monitored and back pain persists, than a medical professional should evaluate your child for additional pain.
Remember:
Pack it Light, Wear it Right!
Resources:

  1. “AOTA’s National School Backpack Awareness Day: Sept. 16, 2015.” The American Occupational Therapy Association. NP Date. Web. 7 September 2015.
  2. “Backpack Facts: What’s All the Flap About?” The American Occupational Therapy Association. 14 May 2009. Web. 9 September 2015.