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How to Choose a Backpack for Your Child

Choosing a proper backpack is especially important for school age children whose spines grow rapidly each year.

child with backpack lon g1

The use of backpacks as a method of transporting personal items is ubiquitous throughout the world.  Like cells phones, this practice has become popularized among American youth, so it is not uncommon to see elementary school age children donning a back pack almost half their size and weight. With greater awareness of the potential injuries imposed on the musculoskeletal system with inappropriate use, a recent trend has mobilized the backpack with wheels to be pulled rendering less stress on the body and more ergonomically sound. However, this model is not really the most efficient or convenient for the typical student, especially the younger age groups.

So, in an effort to preserve the backs and postures of the backpack user, most importantly those elementary, middle, and high school users, here are the American Chiropractic Association’s (ACA) recommendations for how to effectively fit and use a back pack, so to reduce risk of injury and maintain a healthy spine:

  • Find the correct fit:backpack should never be wider or longer than child’s torso, and should not hang more than 4” below waistline.
    • Low hanging packs puts excessive weight on shoulders causing a shift of the torso forward when walking.
  • Choose appropriate straps:wide, padded, adjustable straps providing  the ability to fit the child’s body
    • Loose straps result in dangling packs causing misalignments and pain in the spine. 
  • Use both shoulders:no single side carries of a backpack
    • The use of one strap causes a disproportionate shift of weight to that side resulting in muscle spasms of the neck and shoulders, including low back pain.
  • Pad the back:a padded back provides cushioning and more comfortable to wear
    • Also provides added protection from sharp or pointed objects being carried in the pack (e.g. pencils, rulers, textbooks, and notebooks)
  • Go for a pack with various compartments: compartments allow for positioning contents most effectively.
  • Assess the contents:if it looks too heavy, it probably is.
    • Ask instructor permission to leave heavy books and electronic items (iPads, laptops, etc.), only bringing home lighter handout materials.

Like adults, children and young adults experience the same stresses and strains on their bodies and require the same maintenance and care.  They just happen to recover a bit quicker than their parents and other adults.  Along with proper backpack use, regular chiropractic checkups are an important part of our children’s preventive health care in maintaining a healthy spine and nervous system.  In addition, Dr. Paez is our resident pediatric chiropractor and provides complementary assessments and care for the first three months for the newborns of the Lula chiropractic family.