Back to School 2015: Backpacks May Cause Back, Neck Injuries -- How To Choose The Right Bag

By Staff Reporter, Parent Herald August 17, 06:00 am

Backpacks are a great help to students. However, one has to choose the right backpack, and also know how to use it properly to avoid any possible injury or discomfort.

According to Healthday, an expert says that though backpacks are convenient for students, improper use can be a threat to backs and necks.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, via Healthday, reported that there were more than 5,400 backpack-related injuries treated across the United States in 2013. In 2014, more than 28,100 individuals were treated for backpack related injuries, as per a press release from PR NewswireMore than 8,300 of the injuries treated in 2014 were from kids 5 to 18 years old.

Dr. Scott Bautch of the American Chiropractic Association's (ACA) says, "In my own practice, I have noticed a marked increase in the number of young children who are complaining about back, neck and shoulder pain."

"The first question I ask these patients is, 'Do you carry a backpack to school?' Almost always, the answer is 'yes,'" he adds.

This back pain trend among students isn't surprising considering they usually carry their packs on just one shoulder, often weighing more than it should.

According to Dr. Bautch, backpacks should be limited to weigh not more than 5 to 10 percent of the child's weight. If the weight is heavier, the child tends to bend forward to support the weight instead of putting the weight on his or her shoulders by the straps.

Now that more schools are removing lockers from their premises, students are forced to carry their belongings throughout the day. However, the problem is, with heavier backpacks, back pain worsens.

For parents, here are a few safety tips from the ACA.

Backpack size should be smaller than the child's torso, hanging less than four inches below the waistline. Letting the backpack hang too low causes the child to lean forward when walking.

Two wide, padded shoulder straps should be attached to the backpack and used by the child every time he or she carries it. To avoid the straps from digging into the shoulders, wider straps should be used.

The backpack's straps should be adjustable so that it can fit the child's body. Loose fitting straps can cause neck, muscle spasms and back pains.

Packs with padded backs increase the safety of the child by protecting him or her from pointed objects (e.g., pens, rulers, pencils).

Several compartments will be beneficial in positioning contents.

Unnecessary loads should be left. Parents can ask the child's teacher if heavy books and electronic items such as laptops can be left in school so that the child will have lighter loads. 

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