It’s that time of year again, back-to-school! As practical as backpacks are, they can strain muscles and joints and may cause back pain if they’re too heavy or are used incorrectly.

Although many factors can lead to back pain, such as sudden increased participation in sports or exercise, poor posture while sitting, and long periods of inactivity, some kids have backaches because they’re carrying around an entire locker’s worth of books and school supplies all day long. The American Chiropractic Association recommends that kids career no more than 5-10% of their body weight in backpacks.

A heavy backpack filled with books can pull a child backward, even when placed on the shoulders correctly. To compensate, a child may lean forward, flexing or arching the back which causes the spine to compress unnaturally.

The American Chiropractic Association offers the following tips to help prevent the needless pain that back-pack misuse could case the students in your household:

  • Make sure backpacks weigh no more than 5-10% of your child’s body weight
  • The backpack should never hang more than 4 inches below the waistline
  • Bigger is not necessarily better, the more room in the backpack the more your child will carry
  • Urge your child to wear both shoulder straps
  • Wide, padded straps are very important
  • The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child’s body.

If the backpack is still too heavy, talk to your child’s teacher and ask if your child could leave the heaviest books at school and bring home only lighter handout materials or workbooks.

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