Backpacking Tips for Back Health

September 14, 2010 at 3:37 pm Leave a comment

Many children and teenagers use backpacks to help tow their schoolbooks and supplies between home and school. When used correctly, backpacks distribute the weight of the load among some of the body’s strongest muscles. But backpacks can be harmful when overloaded and/or improperly fitted, warns the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Backpacks that are too heavy or are worn incorrectly can injure muscles and joints, which can lead to severe back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems.

To prevent injury, here are some basic backpack safety tips you and your children should follow:

  • Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.
  • Tighten the straps so that the pack is close to the body. The straps should hold the pack two inches above the waist.
  • Pack light. The backpack should never weigh more than 20 percent of the student’s total body weight.
  • Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.
  • Stop often at school lockers and remove items you don’t need, if possible. Do not carry all the books needed for the day.
  • Bend using both knees. Do not bend over at the waist when wearing or lifting a heavy backpack.
  • Learn back-strengthening exercises to build up the muscles used to carry a backpack.
  • Encourage your child or teenager to tell you about any pain or discomfort that may be caused by a backpack. Do not ignore any back pain in a child or teenager.

Entry filed under: Managing your health.

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