How Much is Too Much for a Child’s Backpack?
Prevent a Back-to-School Backache with These Tips
SACRAMENTO, Calif., August 18, 2011 - As some school districts consider swapping heavy textbooks for e-reader tablets, local health experts understand the impact an overloaded backpack can have on a child — stiff necks, sore shoulders and aching backs. But parents can help prevent these possible pains in a few simple ways.
“Parents are often surprised at how much their child’s backpack actually weighs,” said Deborah A. Shassetz Villa, D.O., a pediatrician with Sutter Gould Medical Foundation. “As a general rule, to prevent injury, your child’s full backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of his or her body weight.”
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How a student wears his or her backpack is often just as important as its overall weight.
“Kids often wear their bag slung over one shoulder or so low that it sits below their waist,” added Dr. Shassetz Villa. “This could cause neck and muscle spasms, lower back pain or even numbness and tingling in a student’s arms.”
While some experts disagree on whether heavy backpacks are the source of back pain in children, most agree that using good judgment when wearing one will reduce the potential risk of backpack-related injuries.
Seven Tips to Lighten the Strain on Your Child’s Back:
- Buy a backpack with wide, padded straps to minimize pressure on the shoulders and collarbone
- Leather is fashionable, but it’s heavier than nylon
- Carry the pack on both shoulders to spread the weight evenly; tighten straps so the bag lies about two inches above the waist
- Bend both knees instead of leaning over when hoisting a heavy bag
- Consider a backpack with wheels or a waist belt to help take weight off the back
- Talk to your child about using his or her locker to keep from carrying everything around all day
- Pack the heaviest items closest to the center of the back to minimize additional strain
About Sutter Health
Serving patients and their families in more than 100 Northern California cities and towns, Sutter Health doctors, not-for-profit hospitals and other health care service providers share resources and expertise to advance health care quality and access. The Sutter Medical Network includes many of California’s top-performing, highest quality physician organizations as measured annually by the Integrated Healthcare Association. Sutter-affiliated hospitals are regional leaders in cardiac care, women’s and children’s services, cancer care, orthopedics and advanced patient safety technology.
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