Backpack Safety Information
Almost all students have carried a backpack as a way to help with carrying necessary books and supplies to and from school. However, not carrying the backpack properly, or making it too heavy, can be a health concern. Below are some tips for safely carrying a backpack, choosing the right backpack, and signs to watch for to determine if your child may be having some problems. Links to additional information are also provided.
Common Problems Associated with Backpacks:
- Weight is too heavy- can lead to spine compression, causing pain in the back, neck, and shoulders – backpack weight should be less than 10%- 15% of student's body weight
- Poor weight distribution- can lead to bad posture while carrying a backpack and can even be a fall hazard – heaviest items should be placed closest to the body, in the largest compartment
- Backpack is carried over one shoulder- can cause back, shoulder, and neck pain – backpack should always be carried using both shoulder straps
- Shoulder straps are too tight or narrow- can lead to problems with circulation or nerves, causing tingling, numbness, or weakness in arms or hands – backpack should be worn with straps over both shoulders; straps should be wide, padded, and fit snuggly, not tight
- Improper lifting of backpack- can cause back pain – lift backpack properly with both hands, bending at the knees
Choosing the Right Backpack:
- Choose one made of lightweight material
- Choose one with two wide, padded shoulder straps
- Choose one with multiple compartments to easily distribute supplies
- A backpack with a padded back helps provides added comfort
- A backpack with a waist strap help to evenly distribute weight of load
- A backpack should fit close to the body and rest evenly in the middle of the back; it should not rest below the level of the hips.
Tips for Parents:
- Work with your child on proper backpack use
- Weigh your child's backpack to make sure it's not too heavy
- Watch your child pick up and carry their backpack and note any problems
- Encourage your child to report any back, neck, or shoulder pain. If your child complains of pain, report this to their physician.