Across the country, thousands of kids are nearing the end of their summer. They're going back to school, ready to get started on a new school year. And they're packing their backpacks full of everything necessary for that first day. But when they pack those backpacks, they're exposing themselves to hidden dangers. According to a 2009 study by the American Physical Therapy Association, 55% of children carry backpacks heavier than the recommended maximum safe weight. The result can be significant injuries for children, whose joints and muscles are still growing. How do you prevent your kids from harm as they're preparing for their first day of school? Here are some helpful tips.
Most experts recommend a maximum backpack weight of 15% of your child's body weight. For a 90 pound fifth grader, that means the backpack should weigh no more than 13.5 lbs. Fortunately, a little organization can ensure that your child doesn't overpack. Only pack items necessary for that day, and pack the heaviest items toward the back. If too many of them are required for classes, two sets of books - one for school and one for home - may be helpful.
Use the Right Backpack
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, a good backpack "should rest evenly in the middle of the back." It should not be too lose or too large; if it hangs below the lower back, it can become harmful. A padded back also helps alleviate pressure on the child's back.
Carry it Right
We know, it's a lot easier to swing the backpack over one arm and go. Some teenagers may even think it looks cooler. But only wearing the backpack by one string means its weight is not distributed evenly, and can pull heavily on one side of the back muscles. Every backpack is designed to be worn with two straps; doing so is essential to avoid potential harm.
Talk to a Physical Therapist
Despite all these tips, your child may come home from school complaining about back pain, tingling/numb arms or irritated shoulders, signs that something is not right with the backpack. If that's the case, a physical therapist can help your child feel better. Even if you just feel uncomfortable selecting the right backpack, they can also help you select the correct size and fit to make sure your child gets to school happy, comfortable and safe. And before you know it, they'll come home from their first day of school full of memories and ready for the next day!
- Taking Physical & Occupational Therapy Outdoors
- Membership Matters: Professional Support For Physical Therapists
- The Best Career Resources for Physical Therapists For 2014
- Occupational Therapists - Rewarding Career & Bright Outlook Ahead