August 12 , 2011
A student’s backpack might contain homework, books, laptops, iPods, lunches and even gym clothes. As their backpacks become stuffed to the brim, the pack can become much too heavy or might be worn improperly, causing unnecessary back strain and pain to a child’s back. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) suggests that backpacks be worn correctly and should not carry too much weight, that can cause pain or discomfort.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2010, nearly 28,000 people were treated in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and emergency rooms for backpack-related injuries like strains, sprains, dislocations and fractures.
AAOS SAFETY TIPS
The AAOS recommends the following safety tips to help eliminate pain and discomfort due to backpacks:
- Always use both shoulder straps to keep the weight of the backpack better distributed;
- Tighten the straps and use waist strap if the bag has one;
- Remove or organize items if too heavy and place biggest items closest to the back;
- Lift properly and bend at the knees to pick up a backpack;
- Carry only those items that are required for the day.
Parents also can help with backpack-related pain:
- Encourage your child or teenager to tell you about pain or discomfort that may be caused by a heavy backpack, like numbness or tingling in the arms or legs.
- Purchase a backpack appropriate for the size of your child and look for any changes in your child’s posture when they wear the backpack.
- Watch your child put on or take off the backpack to see if it is a struggle for them. Do not ignore red marks on the shoulders if your child or teenager expresses discomfort.
- Talk to the school about lightening the load. Keep the load at 10-15 percent or less of the child’s bodyweight.
- Be sure the school allows students to stop at their lockers throughout the day.
“Pain from backpacks is a common occurrence for students when they over pack their bags or don’t distribute the weight evenly in the pack,” said orthopaedic surgeon Laurel C. Blakemore, MD, AAOS spokesperson and chief of orthopedic surgery at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “There are a number of options to help alleviate backpack-related pain, like making sure the backpack doesn’t weigh more than 10-15 percent of the child’s body weight and wearing a backpack that fits well over both shoulders and at the waist.”