Midwestern University Clinics Arizona Multispecialty Strain Children Backpacks

Children Can Feel Strain of Heavy Backpacks

September 4, 2015

School bells are ringing once again this fall and it is important to take a moment to consider not just what’s in your child’s backpack, but the backpack itself. September marks National School Backpack Awareness Day and serves as a reminder to students and parents about the importance of selecting, wearing, and loading a backpack properly.

“Children often load so much into backpacks that they can cause adverse effects on posture and the developing spine, and also compromise breathing and contribute to fatigue,” said Kim Huntington-Alfano, D.O., a physician at Midwestern University’s Multispecialty Clinic in Downers Grove. “Children sometimes choose backpacks based on fashion preferences or trends and think it’s not cool to wear them the right way. Unfortunately, this can lead to neck, upper and lower back, and shoulder pain.”

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, backpack injuries send an estimated 5,000 children to emergency rooms each year. More than 14,000 children are treated annually in the U.S. for backpack-related injuries.

The American Association of Pediatrics and the American Occupational Therapy Association offer the following tips for preventing these issues:

    • Backpacks should weigh no more than 10% of body weight;
    • Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back;
    • The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than four inches below the child’s waistline;
    • Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back:
    • Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments;
    • Wear both shoulder straps for an evenly balanced load;
    • If a backpack has a hip belt, wear it to improve balance and take some strain off sensitive neck and shoulder muscles;
    • Avoid slinging a backpack over one shoulder;
    • If the backpack is too heavy or tightly packed, have your child hand carry a book or other item outside the backpack.
        For more information on backpack safety or ways to keep your children healthy throughout the year, contact the Family Medicine Department at the Multispecialty Clinic in Illinois at 630.743.4500 or in Arizona at 623.537.6000.

The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only and is not for use in diagnosing any condition. The information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, care, or treatment and does not establish a provider/patient relationship. Always consult your own physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions regarding any possible medical condition.

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