Pack it Light! Wear it Right!
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), more than 79 million children and young adults in the U.S. carry heavy loads back and forth to school every day and an estimated 55 percent of them carry too much weight. Research also shows children carrying overloaded and improperly worn packs are likely to experience neck, shoulder, and back pain. Backpacks that are not worn properly can also have negative effects on posture and the developing spine as well as cause difficulty in breathing and fatigue. Some of these injuries continue into adulthood.
The AOTA recommends that parents take the following steps to help children load and wear backpacks the correct way to avoid health problems.
Loading a Pack
• A child’s backpack should weigh no more than about 15% of his or her body weight. This means a student weighing 100 pounds shouldn’t wear a loaded school backpack heavier than about 15 pounds.
• Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back (the back of the pack).
• Arrange books and materials so they won’t slide around in the backpack.
• Check what your child carries to school and brings home. Make sure the items are necessary for the day’s activities.
• If the backpack is too heavy or tightly packed, your child can hand carry a book or other item outside the pack.
• If the backpack is too heavy on a regular basis, consider using a book bag on wheels if your child’s school allows it.
Wearing a Pack
• Distribute weight evenly by using both straps. Wearing a pack slung over one shoulder can cause a child to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort.
• Select a pack with well-padded shoulder straps. Shoulders and necks have many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and tingling in the neck, arms, and hands when too much pressure is applied.
• Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly on the child’s back. A pack that hangs loosely from the back can pull the child backwards and strain muscles.
• Wear the waist belt if the backpack has one. This helps distribute the pack’s weight more evenly.
• The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than four inches below the child’s waistline.
• School backpacks come in different sizes for different ages. Choose the right size pack for your child as well as one with enough room for necessary school items.
If you are interested in hosting a backpack weigh in event at your school or if you would like more information about backpack safety, contact Abbeville Area Rehab and Wellness at 366-2187 or visit aota.org/backpack. Remember, pack it light, wear it right!