It’s that time of year again……..back to school shopping! While most parents and students are focused on getting all the necessary items for the year, the backpack itself is often overlooked. Backpacks have important health impacts on children, whose bodies are still growing and developing. Sometimes parents try to get big backpacks that will be able to fit all the books, pencils and electronic devices needed, but a heavy or poorly fitted backpack can affect a child’s current and future musculoskeletal health. Often children are forced to hunch over under the weight of heavy backpacks, or shift their weight to one side, and this puts them in a prolonged position of flexion. Over time creep causes the ligaments to lax, the joints to move out of place, and the muscles to get over fatigued and strained. This affects both the posture and gait of a child causing imbalances, which can be a factor in future injuries.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you are choosing and packing a backpack:
1. Find a backpack that fits your child’s body and is adjustable as they grow
2. When packing the backpack, it should be between 10-15% of the child’s body weight.
3. Make sure that the weight is evenly distributed in the backpack, so the child doesn’t end up using one side of the body’s muscles more than the other. Backpacks with many compartments are helpful in trying to accomplish this.
4. It is important that your child wears both straps. Having the strap over just one shoulder can cause them to lean to the one side, which over time could cause the spine to curve.
5. The shoulder straps should be adjusted so that the backpack fits closely to the upper part of their body. If the backpack is further away from the body it throws off your child’s balance, and will bounce from side to side causing their muscles to work harder to stabilize. The backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline.
Dr. Natasha Speedie
B.Sc.(Hons.), D.C., A.R.T., C.M.A.G.
Chiropractor, Active Release Technique Practitioner
Clinical Acupuncture Provider
Source: Canadian Chiropractic Association