If you think your child’s backpack is too heavy, you’re probably right. In fact, once kids reach Grade 6, their backpacks could equal 10 to 15 percent of their body weight. More and more students are complaining of neck and shoulder pain due to heavy backpacks, but what choice do they have? These days, with heavier textbooks and increased workloads as the years go on, students have few options besides carrying an entire day’s worth of supplies on their backs.
Dangers of Heavy Backpacks
Thankfully, the issue of heavy backpacks is being addressed due to an increase in the number of young children complaining of back pain and numbness and tingling in their arms. The term “Rucksack Palsy” was coined to define a condition consisting of nerve pressure in the shoulder that can result in muscle atrophy, numbness and nerve damage. Teach your child to load heavier items towards the back of the pack. Carrying most of the weight close to the front causes the backpack to pull forward and put extra strain on the back and shoulders.
Are Backpacks Always the Culprits?
There are other factors to consider when kids complain of back pain. Sports-related injuries and strains, bad posture, weak muscles and poor nutrition can be some of the other causes. A study that examined the correlation between heavy backpacks and back pain in children showed that those who carry heavy backpacks and are tired – especially at the end of a long school day – are more likely to experience back pain or have pain when carrying their backpack. All the more reason to promote moderate exercise, healthy eating and lots of sleep.
Buying a Backpack
A backpack is a big investment. You want one that’s going to last at least two years and is the right fit for your child. Here’s what to look for.
· Have your child try on the backpack to make sure it’s in proportion to his or her size. A pack that’s too big is tempting to overload and can become too heavy to carry
· In the store, adjust the straps so the back fits close to the body. The top should be at the base of the skull and the bottom two inches above the waist
· Go with a lightweight material like a tightly woven nylon. Leave heavy leather and canvas backpacks to hikers
· Make sure the straps are at least two inches wide; anything narrower might not provide even weight distribution
· Avoid packs called messenger bags that are worn across the body. Having only one strap does not allow the weight to be evenly centred over the spine
· Look for a backpack with a waist belt that evenly divides the weight between shoulders, back and pelvis
· Individualized compartments distribute weight more evenly and are great of holding water bottles, lunches and gym shoes