Back to School & Backpack Safety

Back to School & Backpack Safety

Tuesday, March 8, 2022 Backpack Safety

As students head back to school, it’s crucial for parents to realise the importance of backpack safety. Just watch any child struggle to walk while bent sideways under the weight of an overloaded backpack on one shoulder. You will quickly realise the potential danger of this everyday item. Common sense tells us that a load, distributed improperly or unevenly, day after day, will cause severe stress to a growing spinal column.

Chiropractors have long recognised the spinal health hazards of heavy backpack use. However, new research exposes yet another potential danger of heavy backpacks: they may promote falls in students who wear them.

Students who carried backpacks weighing 25% of their body wight exhibited balance problems while performing normal activities such as climbing stairs or opening doors, in turn, upping their risk of falls. In contrast, students who carried packs weighing 15% of their body weight maintained their balance moderately well. And those carrying 5% of their body weight were most effective at maintaining balance.

Bags should be no more than 10% of the child’s weight, but a recent survey by the Chiropractors Association of Australia found almost half carried well over that mark.

Backpack Safety Tips for Your Child:

  • Make sure the backpack is sturdy and approximately sized. The backpack should never be wider or longer than your child’s torso, and the pack should not hang more than 10cm below the waistline.
  • A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking. Bigger is not necessarily better. The more room there is in a backpack, the more your child will carry and the heavier the backpack will be.
  • Padded shoulder straps are important to avoid pressure on the nerves around the armpits. The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child’s body.
  • Two shoulder straps are always better than one. Lugging around a heavy backpack by one strap can cause disproportionate shift of weight to one side. There are backpacks that include waist straps designed to help stabilise the load and should be used whenever possible.
  • The proper maximum weight for loaded backpacks should never exceed 15% of the child’s body weight. If the pack forces the carrier to bend forward, it is overloaded.
  • It’s important to balance the weight of the contents within the bag, otherwise the body shifts into unnatural postures to compensate. A backpack with individualised compartments helps to position the contents most effectively.
  • Often ignored is the act of lifting and positioning the pack. Lifting any load improperly can cause damage. It should be done slowly and carefully, bending the knees while avoiding “swinging” the bag onto the back.

It is important to remember that 3 out of every 100 people have some degree of scoliosis – an abnormal curvature of the spine – that begins in childhood having the potential to worsen over time. Having your child evaluated by a chiropractor is the best way to determine whether they have some degree of scoliosis. Chiropractic care can manage any problems related to scoliosis. A lightened load on their back can have long-term benefits as well!

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Dr. Steve Hodal is committed to providing high-quality, individualized chiropractic care in a comfortable and relaxed environment. He is dedicated to providing evidence-based treatments that are tailored to each patient’s individual needs, allowing them to achieve optimal health and wellbeing. Contact us to know more about this disorder or Book Online.