Following Backpack Safety Tips, Can Save Your Child’s Back

By EGP News Service

It is that time of year again; time to buy new school shoes, pencils and pens, and for many, a new backpack.

But whether a new backpack is on your list or your child will be using the same one they used last year, experts say following a few simple safety tips can help your child avoid lower back pain and injury this school year

When fully loaded, your child’s backpack should weigh less than 15 percent of his or her body weight. To help your child know what this weight feels like, use your bathroom scale to measure the right backpack load.

Buy a backpack with two wide, padded straps that go over the shoulders — and make sure your child uses both straps at all times, says David Marshall, M.D., Director, Sports Medicine Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Choose a backpack with a padded waist or chest belt. This distributes weight more evenly across the body. Multiple compartments also help distribute the weight.

Marshall says your child’s backpack should not be wider than his body, and backpacks with a metal frame (like hikers use) or on wheels (like a flight attendant’s bag) are best, but you should check with your child’s school first to see if these types of bags are allowed.

Make sure your child isn’t toting unnecessary items like laptops, CD players and video games that can add a lot of pounds to a backpack. Heavier items should be placed closer to the back of the backpack, next to the body, recommends Marshall.

Picking up the backpack properly is also important, and as with any heavy object, remind your child to bend at the knees and grab the pack with both hands when lifting it to his shoulders.

Encourage your child to develop stronger lower back and abdominal muscles — this will help avoid back injury, says Marshall. Weight training and yoga are two activities that  can help strengthen these core muscles.

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August 27, 2009  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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