Lighten the Load!

By: Laura Bueche, OT

We hope you have had a happy and easy transition back to school! As school ramps up so does your child’s homework. This means heavier and heavier backpacks are being lugged to and from school. We want to make sure you and your kids avoid injury and pain by giving you tips of how to properly pack, lift and carry a backpack.

The American Occupational Therapy Association has named September 16th National School Backpack Awareness Day to help educate parents, educators, and kids on the dangers of heavy or improperly worn bags.lightenup2005

How do we make things better?

Follow these tips on how to make you and your child’s backpack safer this school year:

  • 08_Kai_JudyIt is recommended that a loaded backpack should never weight more than 10% of the student’s total body weight (for a student weighing 100 pounds, this means that the backpack should weight no more than 10 pounds).(2)
  • Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back
  • Arrange books and materials so they won’t slide around in the backpack.
  • Check what your child carries to school and brings home. Make sure the items are necessary for the day’s activities.
  • Distribute weight evenly by using both straps. Wearing a pack slung over one shoulder can cause a child to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort.
  • Select a pack with well-padded shoulder straps. Shoulders and necks have many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and tingling in the neck, arms, and hands when too much pressure is applied.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly on the child’s back. A pack that hangs loosely from the back can pull the child backwards and strain muscles.
  • Wear the waist belt if the backpack has one. This helps distribute the pack’s weight more evenly.
  • 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.
  • School backpacks come in different sizes for different ages. Choose the right size pack for your child as well as one with enough room for necessary school items.

For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit EasterSealsDFVR.org.

  1. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) Database (2007.) Numbers quoted are the estimated figures.
  2. Hu, J., Jacobs, K., & Pencina, M. (Submitted for publication). Backpack usage and self-reported musculoskeletal discomfort in university students.
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