Jen Graham P.T. School Backpack Basics

Back to school tips and tricks

It is often challenging to find a backpack that is ‘cool’, just the right size for all of the school day necessities and fits correctly! Correct fit should be your first priority!

Consider this: If a child carries his or her backpack for only 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon, they will carry it for 2 hours and 30 minutes per week.  There are 180 school days in a year.  That means the child would carry the backpack for 5,400 minutes or 90 hours per year.  It makes sense to choose the right backpack that fits well!

Proper Fit
Poorly fitting backpacks can contribute or cause neck pain, back pain, numbness or tingling in the arm and poor posture.
The top of the backpack should be approximately level with the shoulders.  The bottom should rest at the level of the waist/small of the back.  You can measure the distance from the waist (at the belly button) to the level of the top of the shoulders and add 2 inches to approximate the appropriate height of the back pack.  It should not be any wider than your child’s body.
Choose a light backpack that is large enough to accommodate only the items that the child will need during the day.  Larger backpacks allow for carrying unnecessary items that add to the total weight.
Look for wide padded straps and tighten the straps so that the backpack rests flat against the child’s back.
Multiple compartments help to evenly distribute the weight.  A waist belt allows the load to be shared by the back, pelvis and hips.

Weight
A report by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission states that 75% of all 8-12 year old children have reported experiencing back pain from carrying backpacks that are too heavy.  Most sources suggest that the backpack should not weigh more than 15% of a child’s body weight.  Some recommend less than 10%.
 
The American Physical Therapy Association, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, and American Chiropractic Association recommend these limits:
Child’s Weight     Maximum Backpack Weight
60 lbs.            5 lbs.
60 - 75 lbs        10 lbs.
75 - 100 lbs.      15 lbs.
100 – 125 lbs      18 lbs.
125 - 150 lbs      20 lbs.
150 - 200 lbs.     25 lbs.
 
No one should carry more than 25 pounds in a backpack.
 
Weigh it!  You may be surprised at how the weight of a water bottle, snack, lunch, folders, and books can add up!  Do not allow your child to carry unnecessary items in the back pack. Keep it as light as possible.
Remember: Even a “strong” child’s spine is still developing!

Posture
Take note of your child’s posture when wearing the back pack.  If they are leaning forward or backward or tilted to the side, then it is too heavy for their individual body, even if it falls within the guidelines.  Lighten it up!
Teach your children the importance of protecting their backs early.  Encourage them to wear the back pack correctly, lighten the load, and maintain good posture.  Children can and do develop back pain, repetitive use injuries, muscle imbalances, and poor posture from the external forces on their developing bodies.  Start their year off right with a properly fitting backpack!

Need help? Call me to schedule a free 15 minute back pack assessment!
 
Jennifer Graham, P.T.
www.jengrahampt.com
617-970-2193

Anna Jaques Hospital Beth Israel Lahey Health

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