Whether your child will be carrying books or a tablet computer to school, there are some important things to remember when making that very important backpack purchase. According to New Orleans orthopedic surgeon Dr. Richard Meyer, improper choice of a poorly-designed and fitted school backpack, overloading and improper strap tightening and misuse issues can risk back pain, discomfort and permanent injury for children and teenagers.
Backpacks are often severely overloaded with kids carrying up to 22% of their body weight. Many children wear their backpacks for 30-60 minutes every day and the common habit of slinging the backpack over only one shoulder can cause permanent damage to the spine.
Tips for Choosing and Backpack and Wearing it Properly
- Watch your child when they put their backpack onto their back to see if they struggle with the weight. If a backpack appears too heavy, have the child remove some of the books and carry them in their arms to ease the load on their back.
- Choose a sturdy and very lightweight backpack. Your New Orleans orthopedic surgeon suggests that he pack itself not weight more than 10-12% of the body weight of the child.
- The padded and adjustable shoulder straps should be at least 2” wide should be very comfortable and snug on the shoulders of the child.
- Always try putting the backpack on your child to make sure its dimensions are correct. The base of the pack should be no lower than the top of the hipbone and the top of the pack should be no higher than the shoulders.
- Your New Orleans orthopedic surgeon suggests choosing a pack with a waist belt or hip strap as this ensures the pack is pulled in against the body and does not lean out and cause strain.
- When lifting backpacks, make sure the child always bends at the knees and minimizes the twisting involved in fitting the backpack.
- Check the child’s backpack regularly and keep working on the child so that they only carry what is absolutely necessary for that day. Excess items can be left at home or in their school lockers.
- Backpacks need to be packed properly to distribute the load so most of the weight is positioned against the child’s back. Your New Orleans orthopedic surgeon advises that heavier and more bulky items should be placed in the center of the backpack, towards the bottom and not shoved into the top at the last minute.
- Encourage your child to readjust the straps every time they put it on. The load and what is carried changes and so adjustments are needed.
- Don’t let your child carry their packs with a strap only over one shoulder. This causes twisting of the spine and can lead to temporary of permanent injuries
- If your child experiences any pain consult your orthopedic doctor. Take the backpack with you and have it checked out if this is likely to be the cause of the problem.
If you have any questions regarding the best backpack for your child – or if your child is experiencing any pain – call the office of New Orleans orthopedic surgeon Dr. Richard Meyer to schedule a consultation.