Backpacks: Pack Them Light, Wear Them Right

| Posted On Aug 25, 2011 | By:

children, backpack safetyBack-to-school shopping is in full swing, and one item on most everyone’s list is a new backpack.  Backpacks are a practical way for children and teens to carry books and supplies back and forth to school. They are designed to distribute the weight of the load among some of the body’s strongest muscles, and when used correctly, backpacks can be useful equipment.

Unfortunately, many parents and children are unaware of the potential dangers of improperly worn backpacks.  Backpacks can be a leading cause of back and shoulder pain for millions of children and adolescents.  Studies show that young children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations, and the use of heavy backpacks is a major factor.

Doctors and physical therapists recommend that kids carry no more than 10% – 15% of their body weight in their backpacks. For example, a child weighing 50 lbs should carry no more than 7.5 lbs in their backpack, and a child weighing 130 lbs should carry no more than 19.5 lbs. However, studies show that over half of all students carry considerably more than these recommendations each day.

Parents may need to adjust their child’s backpack and/or reduce how much the child is carrying if they see their child struggling to get the backpack on and off or they lean forward to carry the backpack. Most importantly, parents should never ignore any complaints of back pain from their child.

Here are some additional tips for proper selection and wear of backpacks:

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About Dr. Elliot Suarez

Dr. Suarez was in a private pediatric practice for about 5 years before he joined the Department of Pediatrics at our Kenmore office in 2006. He is the volunteer medical director for Hope Worldwide Community Service Brigades, an organization that provides humanitarian aid to and medical missions in Central America. Once or twice a year, he travels down to the region, mainly to Nicaragua. In addition to his interest in international medicine, Dr. Suarez also has a clinical interest in helping children who have developmental delays and their families.

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