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Backpack Safety

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Dr. Ernest Levister, Jr.
Dear Dr. Levister: My two sons dread carrying backpacks during school. They complain of back pain. What are the rules for selecting and wearing backpacks? G. R.

Dear G.R.: Backpacks are a popular and practical way for children and teenagers to carry school books and supplies.

When used correctly, backpacks can be a good way to carry the necessities of the school day. Be sure your child’s school allows students to stop at their lockers throughout the day. Do not ignore any back pain in a child or teenager. Ask your pediatrician or health care professional for advice.

Backpacks are designed to distribute the weight of the load among some of the body’s strongest muscles. However, backpacks that are too heavy or are worn incorrectly can cause problems. Improperly used backpacks may injure muscles and joints. This can lead to severe back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as long term posture problems. Share these guidelines to help your kids select backpacks and use them safely.

Doctors recommend that kid’s backpacks should not be more than 15% of their total body  weight. When choosing a backpack.  Look for wide, padded features with two shoulder straps.

Backpacks with one narrow strap can dig into the shoulders.

This can cause pain and restrict circulation. A padded backpack protects against sharp edges on objects inside the pack and increases comfort. A lightweight backpack with a waist strap can distribute the weight of a heavy load more evenly. If you’re going to carry a heavy backpack make sure you use the hip strap, instead of letting it just hang there.

The rolling backpack is an excellent choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs.

Always use both straps. Do not sling the back pack over one shoulder. Pack light.

Tighten the straps. Organize the backpack. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.  Bend using both knees. Learn and perform back strengthening exercises to build up the muscles used to carry a backpack.

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