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Consider backpack safety when heading back to school

As your family prepares to go shopping for back-to-school needs, think beyond design when you pick out your child’s backpack.

“Wearing a backpack that is too heavy can damage muscles and joints causing serious back, neck and shoulder pain,” said Allison Fortman, assistant director of Maury Regional Medical Center Physical Therapy. “For children, this can cause lifelong damage to their posture.”

Here are a few things that the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggests you look for when shopping for a new backpack:

Padding: You will want two wide and padded straps as well as a padded back panel. This helps prevent the weight of the backpack from pinching nerves in the shoulder.

Compartments: A backpack with lots of pockets will allow you to carefully distribute weight. You will want to keep the heaviest things closest to the back.

Lightweight: The books and supplies you put inside a backpack are heavy enough. Do not add to the weight with a heavy material.

No matter what backpack you choose, here are some things to keep in mind throughout the school year:

Tighten Up: A backpack should be worn over the middle of the back. Be sure to adjust the straps so that the backpack is positioned correctly.

Don’t Overload: Multiple books and binders become heavy. A backpack should not weigh more than 10% of a child’s body weight. 

Wear Both Straps: This is very important to the weight distribution. Using only one strap can cause the spine to curve more to one side.

Do not let the weight of backpacks get you down during the back to school fun! To learn more, visit the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. If your child is experiencing pain in the neck, back or shoulder or has a decrease in mobility, consider scheduling an assessment with a licensed physical therapist. Learn more here.