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Choosing the Right Backpack to Help Your Student Avoid Back Pain

August 22nd, 2017

With the fall season upon us, the Back-to-School shopping craze is now at its fever pitch. And if you’ve got a student heading back to school, you likely know that the new books, electronic devices, notebooks and lunch boxes all get stuffed into one receptacle – the backpack. Today’s student is likely carrying a more heavily-loaded backpack, at a younger age than ever before. When you count the time lugging the monster satchel to and from school, between classes, and over a number of months, it’s no surprise that the strain on a young neck, back and shoulder(s) can create the possibility for back pain or spine injury. Here are some things to consider when shopping that just-right backpack for your student (or yourself).

Whether it’s a tote bag, shoulder bag, messenger bag, large purse, rolling bag or standard backpack, there are plenty of options to choose from and knowing what to look for can help you weed out those that won’t help you prevent back pain or spine injury. In many cases, the regular backpack is the most conveniently available and practical choice, with some important considerations:

  • The Lighter, the Better – Most health experts recommend that people carry no more than 10-15% of their body weight in their backpack or any other type of book bag. This helps to not overload the body, which can result in stress on the joints and muscles. Too heavy of backpacks can also cause problems with balance, further increasing the risk for a fall. When empty, the backpack you’re considering should be lightweight. Avoid thick materials like leather and unnecessary, bulky trappings like metal, chains or buckles.
  • Beware of the Leaner – One sure sign of a backpack that is too heavy – the weight of it pulls the wearer backward, causing them to compensate by leaning too far forward at the hips or to unnaturally arch the back, resulting in compression of the spine and reducing balance, again making it easier to fall and get hurt. Many backpacks come with multiple compartments which, in addition to helping a student organize, may also aid in distributing the weight of the pack further across the back, resulting in less of a tendency to lean.
  • Equality is Key – Whether it’s just easier or your student thinks it looks “cool,” people who wear their backpacks over just one shoulder may end up leaning to one side to shift the extra weight and create balance while walking. But is important to understand that improper backpack-wearing can lead to poor posture or injury to one side of the body due to imbalance. Encourage your student to always wear the shoulder straps of a backpack evenly on BOTH shoulders. To help, some backpacks come with harness-style belts across the chest and at the hips that are designed specifically to help distribute weight evenly across the body.
  • Shun Skinny Straps – Though they may seem fashionable, the narrow, tight straps of some backpacks can dig into shoulders. This can block circulation and may result in tingling, numbness, or weakness in the arms and hands – a sure sign of nerve damage. Opt for thicker, padded straps that cushion the shoulders. In addition, choosing a backpack with a padded back can provide comfort and can protect the back from sharp objects that may be stuffed inside.
  • Stand Tall – A backpack’s too-heavy load may encourage students to hunch or slouch while walking, distorting the natural curves in the middle and lower back. This can irritate spine joints, causing poor posture and straining neck muscles. Encourage your student to walk with their head up and shoulders back while wearing a backpack (and always, really).

When it comes to picking the right backpack, your student is going to likely be more concerned with fashion over function, but paying attention to the type of book bag they’ll be carrying around for this school year and how they’re carrying it is crucial. While these concerns might make back-to-school shopping a bit more challenging, knowing what you’re looking for and why will go a long way toward making for a safer, more comfortable school year ahead. Back pain in young children is not normal, so be sure to pay close attention if your child complains of back pain or numbness or weakness in the arms or legs. These should be addressed with a spine health expert right away, whether a backpack is the cause or not.

Sources:

http://www.empowher.com/community/share/back-school-backpacks-and-back-pain

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