Is your child’s backpack causing them pain?

Children in elementary, middle and high school commonly use backpacks to carry books, shoes and other necessities for school each day. It is important that you consider the weight and fit to reduce the risk of back and shoulder pain for your child.

What are key features to look for in a backpack?
• Wide padded straps help to distribute the weight over the shoulders and prevent straps from digging in and causing pain.
• Padded backs provide comfort and prevent items from sticking into the back. Ideally, a backpack should be have a padded lower back support to prevent slouching.
• Waist straps help to transfer the weight to the hips, but it is important to ensure they are fitted properly. It also prevents the backpack from swinging.
• Compartments help organize contents in a backpack and also prevent them from shifting when carrying the backpack. If a laptop is transported, ensure that it is positioned in its own compartment and the compartment is designed and properly sized to carry that particular laptop.
• Overall size of the backpack should fit your child’s size and stature. The backpack should fit your child’s back. It should be no wider than the child’s back width (from the ridge of one shoulder blade to the other). It should be no longer than back height (top of the shoulders to two inches below the waist line – belly button).

Backpack weight guidelines:
A backpack should not weigh more than 25 pounds. It should ideally be no more than 15% of the child’s body weight. For example,

Key daily tips your kids should remember each day
• Only pack what is necessary.
• Pack items that are heavier at the bottom to ensure weight is transferred to the hips.
• Pack flat items so they rest flat next to the back to increase comfort.
• Use both shoulder straps and ensure they are tight enough so that no more than 4 inches of the back pack hangs below the waist line (belly button).
• Only wear the backpack when necessary.
• Consider using different backpacks for different activities, or subjects that are grouped together on a particular day.
• Check if textbooks are available as ebooks to reduce overall loads associated with heavy textbooks.
• Consider alternative style backpacks, such as rolling bags, but make sure the handle is long enough so that your child does not have to bend over too to use the handle.
• Do a quick weekly cleaning of the backpack to remove garbage, and unnecessary items such as uneaten lunches.
• As more classes become dependent upon portable computer use, consider investing in a light weight laptop notebook.