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Back to School and Backpack Safety

As students head back to school, it’s important for parents to realize the importance of backpack safety. Low quality backpacks and/or improper backpack techniques can cause serious short-term and potentially long-term back and spinal problems.
For this reason, the American Chiropractic Association has generated a backpack safety checklist for parents:

 • Is the backpack the correct size for your child - The backpack should never be wider or longer than your child's torso, and the pack should not hang more than 4 inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking. Also, a bigger bag is not necessarily better. The more room there is in a backpack, the more your child will carry and the heavier the backpack will be.

 • Does the backpack have two wide, padded shoulder straps - Non-padded straps are uncomfortable and can dig into your childís shoulders. Also, two shoulder straps are better than one. Lugging a heavy backpack by one strap can cause a disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as low-back pain.

 • Are the shoulder straps adjustable - The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child's body. Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain.

 • Does the backpack have a padded back - A padded back not only provides increased comfort, but also protects your child from being poked by sharp edges on school supplies (pencils, rulers, notebooks, etc.) inside the pack.

 • Is there a waist belt - Many backpacks have a waist belt that can be snugly buckled around the childís waist. These belts can distribute the weight of a heavy load from the back and shoulders to the hips and torso.

 • Does the pack have several compartments - A backpack with individualized compartments helps position the contents most effectively. Make sure that pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on your child's back, and try to place the heaviest items closet to the body.

We encourage parents to contact our office should their child or teen report any discomfort, especially one related to backpack use. Early treatment and prevention is key.

Author: ChiroPlanet.com
Source: American Chiropractic Association. August 2005.