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Finding The Right Backpack For Back Health

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If you’re anything like me, late August/early September is my favorite time of the year. We can feel the long-awaited change in temperature, and fall sports and activities have started back up. Back-to-school time is a very busy time for parents. We not only formulate schedules, but also buy new clothes, new notebooks, and backpacks.

The backpack is a very vital purchase for your child. If a backpack isn’t worn properly, fitted properly or packed properly, our most prized possessions can start to develop pain and/or discomfort.

In general, back or spinal pain is unfortunately all too common among adults as well as young children and teens. Some parents may be unaware that how their children carry their backpacks can very much be the cause or the start of back pain and discomfort.

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Here are some backpack safety tips and advice I recommend on picking a backpack for your child:

  • Follow the 5% to 10% rule: Make sure your child’s backpack weighs no more than 5% to 10% of his/her body weight. A heavier backpack will cause your child to bend forward in an attempt to support the weight on his or her back, rather than on the shoulders, by the straps.
  • The backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking.
  • Urge your child to use both straps. While it may be “cool” for our kids to let the backpack hang from one shoulder, this is a potential red flag. Lugging the backpack around with one strap can cause a disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to muscle imbalance and muscle spasm.
  • Pick a backpack with wide padded straps. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable and can dig into the child’s shoulders.
  • The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child’s body. Loose straps can cause the backpack to dangle and lead to muscle imbalance and spasm.
  • If the backpack is still too heavy, talk with your teacher. Ask if your child could leave the heaviest books at school and bring home only lighter notebooks or hand-out materials.

I hope these tips and suggestions help you pick out the best backpack for your children’s back to school needs.

Dr. Jay Villani is the owner of Verona Spine & Wellness Center.

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