Originally written and posted by the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors
The Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors has long been a huge proponent of backpack safety for children.
That’s why, as the pencils are sharpened, the smell of fresh Velcro litters the air, and your kids come to the realization their summer is coming to an end, we like to highlight the importance of protecting childrens' bodies when it comes to what is considered an essential back-to-school purchase.
According to a study by the University of California, 61 per cent of school children analyzed had backpacks exceeding 10 per cent of their body weight. Those carrying the heaviest backpacks had a 50 per cent higher risk of back pain. This goes along with the fact that over 50 per cent of Canadian youth will suffer at least one back pain episode during their school years.
Choosing the right backpack, ensuring your child packs it light, and wears it the correct way, can go a long way in preventing them pain, both now and down the road.
Choosing the right backpack
Upon entering the store, your child may flock to the [insert popular kids movie of the summer here] themed backpacks, but it’s important to help them pick their backpack based on substance, not style.
When looking for a back pack you should look for the following things:
- Choose a bag made of lightweight material, such as vinyl or canvas.
- Pick a bag that has two wide, adjustable and padded shoulder straps, along with a hip or waist strap, a padded back and plenty of pockets.
- Ensure the bag is proportionate to body size and no larger than needed. The top of the pack should not extend higher than the top of the shoulder, and the bottom should not fall below the top of the hipbone.
- Explore other options like bags with wheels and a pull handle for easy rolling.
Packing it with the right weight
The type of backpack your kids are using is key, but the weight your kids are putting in them is of equal importance.
The total weight of the pack should not exceed 10 to 15 per cent of the wearer’s body weight. A typical 10-year-old boy’s weight in Canada is estimated at around 50 lbs. A child this size should only be carrying around 7.5 lbs. maximum.
Also keep in mind that the weight should be distributed within the pack evenly. It’s a good idea to pack the heaviest items close to the body as this reduces the strain because the weight is closer to the body’s own centre of gravity.
Wearing it correctly
It’s important to teach your child the proper way wear their backpack as well. Slinging the backpack over one shoulder can cause stress on the joints and muscles in the mid and lower back. Both shoulder straps should always be used and adjusted so the pack fits snugly against the body. You should be able to slide a hand between the backpack and the wearer’s back.
If you’ve bought a bag with a waist strap, ensure that they do it up as it reduces the strain on the back and transfers some of the load to the hips.
To ensure your child’s back is healthy and strong, consult your chiropractor. They can teach you and your child how to pack, lift and carry a backpack properly to prevent injury.