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Backpacks: Lighten Your Child’s Load

As millions of kids get ready to go back to school, many will pull out
old backpacks or purchase new ones. While the books, homework assignments,
lunches, and other school gear those bags carry may be important for success
in school, some experts point to backpack use as the leading cause of a
growing trend in back pain among youngsters. In fact, a recent study conducted
in Italy found that nearly 60 percent of children carrying heavy backpacks
experienced back pain as a result.

Some states, such as California and New Jersey, have taken legislative
action to reduce the weight of students’ backpacks in their school
districts. However, even for residents of those states, government regulation
may not be enough. Whether you are looking out for your child’s welfare
or you use a backpack yourself, here are some steps recommended by the
American Chiropractic Association to lighten the load.

Tips for purchasing a new pack:

  • Be selective. Look for ergonomically designed packs,
    such as the Samsonite Chiropak, that distribute weight evenly along the
    shoulders and spine. Ask your chiropractor for suggestions, and have
    him or her look at the fit of a pack you have purchased.
  • Go small. The smaller the pack, the less likely your
    child is to overload it with books and other materials. Look for packs
    that feature special compartments for different types of items— such
    as pencils, calculators, books, or folders.
  • Select wide, padded straps. Backpacks that are designed
    with broader straps and ample padding are much more comfortable— and
    healthier.
  • Lighten up. Aim for a backpack weight of no more than
    10 percent of your child’s body weight. That means if your child
    weighs 85 pounds, her pack shouldn’t exceed 8.5 pounds. If your
    child is required to carry weight above that 10 percent, talk to your
    child’s teacher about ways to reduce the load.
  • Position correctly. A properly adjusted backpack will
    create less stress on the back. Make sure the pack doesn’t hang
    too low (four inches or more below the waist) which can strain the back.
  • Two is better than one. Educate your child about the
    importance of wearing both shoulder straps, which will distribute weight
    more evenly.

If you or your child experience tingling or numbness in the hands, or
discomfort in the back or neck after wearing a backpack, discontinue use
and seek the advice of your doctor of chiropractic.