In our grandparents’ day, children walked long distances to school with only a lunch pail and a couple of books strapped together. As we move to a “paperless” age, the books seem to get bigger and more numerous.Now children appear to haul entire libraries in their backpacks.It is no wonder that thousands of children suffer with back pain and spine injuries from all this weight.Here are a few suggestions for helping parents and children manage this problem:

  • Select a light weight backpack that has wide, padded and adjustable shoulder straps, and, if possible, a waist strap
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so they are comfortably fitted – i.e. not loose – so the weight is carried close to the body
  • Pack the heaviest items in the lower middle area with lighter items to the sides and top for balanced weight
  • Once the backpack is loaded and on the child’s back, use the waist strap to secure the load close to the body
  • Parents should check their child’s schedule for opportunities to stop by their locker and repack the bag to decrease weight
  • Total backpack weight should not exceed 15% of the child’s body weight (10% is even better).If the weight exceeds the higher percentage, remove some books from the backpack and carry them by hand
  • If the backpack weight is completely out of control, consider a roller bag

A well-balanced backpack should enable a child to stand upright and walk easily without leaning forward.Signs of too much weight may include numbness or pain in the arms or legs. If these symptoms persist, lighten the load even more and, if needed, consult one of our physicians.

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