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August Tips of the Month: Backpack Safety

Backpacks are designed to distribute weight evenly across the body. When used correctly, backpacks can be a good way to carry school necessities. However, improperly worn backpacks, or backpacks that are too heavy can cause problems and may injure muscles and joints. This can lead to severe back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems.

Signs that the backpack is too heavy:

  • Struggling to get the backpack off and on.

  • Red marks on the shoulder.

  • Changes in posture -- leaning forward to the side or arching the back.

  • Complaints of pain when wearing the backpack.

  • Headaches, numbness and/or tingling of the upper extremities.

Choose the right backpack:

  • Two wide padded straps that go over the shoulders.

  • Padded waist or chest belt to distribute weight more evenly across the body.

  • Multiple compartments to distribute the weight of the load. Width not greater than the child's torso.

  • Lightweight backpack -- the backpack itself should not add much weight to the load.

  • Rolling backpack -- this type may be good for students who carry heavy loads. Remember they must be carried upstairs. Check with the school regarding their policy on rolling backpacks.

  • Padded back to reduce pressure on the back -- a padded back protects against sharp edges on objects and increases comfort.

Use the backpack properly to prevent injury:

  • Use both straps, firmly tightened, to hold the pack no lower than waist level.

  • Limit backpack use to necessities only.

  • Place the heaviest items in the pack close to the back. Distribute items in all compartments.

  • The backpack should weigh less than 10-15% of a student's total body weight and never more than 20% of the student's weight.

  • Use correct lifting techniques. Bend both knees when picking up a backpack and never bend over at the waist when wearing or lifting a backpack.


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