As a Physical Therapy Clinic that specializes in spinal injury prevention among all age groups, we have noticed a growing concern regarding child hood spinal injuries and increased scoliosis prevalence due to improper backpack selection and usage. The profession of Physical Therapy is leading the way with interventions that focus on educating in the community of safety precautions, while placing emphasis on prevention of such spinal injuries from improper repetitive postural mechanics.
Strap on only one shoulder.
Wide, padded straps on both shoulders.
Load too heavy.
Load no more than 10-15% of body weight.
Wear both straps.
Use of one strap causes one side of the body to bear the weight of the backpack. By wearing two shoulder straps, the weight of the backpack is better distributed.
Wear the backpack over the strongest mid-back muscles.
Pay close attention to the way the backpack is positioned on the back. It should rest evenly in the middle of the back. Shoulder straps should be adjusted to allow the child to put on and take off the backpack without difficulty and allow free movement of the arms. Straps should not be too loose, and the backpack should not extend below the low back.
Lighten the load.
Keep the load at 10-15% or less of the child’s body-weight. Carry only those items that are required for the day. Organize the contents of the backpack by placing the heaviest items closest to the back. Some students have two sets of books so as not to have to carry the heavy books to and from school.
Proper Backpack Selection for My Child
There is a rise of preventable musculoskeletal injuries among the preteen and teen aged school population. Notably, scoliosis and back pain complaints are rising in this segment of the population. As clinicians, this appears on the rise due to the effects of more computer time and technology, as well as ill fitted backpacks being one of the culprits. Ideal weight considerations for a fully loaded backpack when carried is not to exceed 15% of the child’s body-weight.
Key aspects to consider when selecting a backpack are:
- An ergonomic design
- Correct size: never wider or longer than your child’s torso and not hanging more than 4 inches below your child’s waist
- Consider padded back and shoulder straps, utilize both shoulder straps, not unilaterally hung off shoulder
- Consider hip and chest belts to transfer the weight through the hips and torso
- Multiple compartments to distribute the weight more evenly throughout the back pack
- Compression straps on the side or bottom of the backpack to stabilize and consolidate the contents
- Reflective materials for safety of travel in seasonal light changes during commuting and walking
- Avoid backpack on wheels to avoid tripping, maintain the student’s safety while entering buses ad buildings, also avoid hallway clutter
For further assessment of your child’s concerns about spinal pain, please seek an evaluation and assessment with us for further exercises and suggestions tailored to your student’s needs. Information provided by the APTA.