26 November 2015 by Annie Barnwell
Did you know that 82% of children report back pain related to their backpack?
Now that we’re a couple of months into the school season, it is a good time to check your child’s backpack and what is being carried inside. I’m mainly thinking about your child’s backpack, and if you are a teacher, then also your student’s backpacks. However, if you carry a backpack for work (or other activities) then you should also take a look at your backpack and how it may be affecting your comfort.
Children carry their backpacks to and from school daily. Depending on their grade and homework demands, the backpack could hold a binder or two, a textbook or two, lunch, and a set of gym clothing and shoes. Carrying a heavy backpack is concerning for anyone, but particularly for children during growth spurts.
Heavy backpacks can result in both safety and ergonomics concerns. An unbalanced or heavy backpack may cause a child to fall, particularly when climbing stairs or when running on uneven or slippery ground. Children (and adults!) may also adopt rounded neck, back and shoulder postures to keep the load balanced contributing to neck, shoulder and back pain.
When examining your child’s backpack or your own backpack – determine whether all the items in the bag are necessary. Make it part of your routine to check and see what’s being carried in the backpack and consider its usefulness each day. Otherwise, it becomes too easy to leave items in the backpack that only get used a couple times a week or month.
With some effort, we can influence the weight of the backpack and what postures our children take on by incorporating a number of recommended strategies. In this month’s Ergo Insight, detailed strategies are provided that can be easily incorporated to reduce the overall load of the backpack and ensure that the design of the backpack does not contribute to pain or discomfort.
Consider limiting the weight of the backpack to no more than 10% of your child’s body weight. For yourself, consider not overloading your backpack and limit it to no more than 15% of your own body weight. Ensure backpack straps are secure and snug to prevent the backpack from swinging or pulling unnecessarily on the back and shoulders. Encourage your children to always use both shoulder straps, thus reducing unnecessary strain on the spine.
Remember prevention is the key to reducing the risk of an overuse injury or strain. Strain and sprain injuries can take a tremendous amount of time to heal from, and can prevent us from participating in the activities we enjoy.
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