Shape up Before You Pack it up:
Wise Backpack Usage
students, back to school can mean the beginning of back and shoulder
pain from carrying a weighty backpack. Students should start
conditioning their bodies now before attempting to carry heavy
backpacks, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons advises.
You might be
surprised at the number of injuries attributed to backpacks: 13,264
visits to physician offices, clinics and hospital emergency rooms in
2000 alone for individuals 21 and younger, according to statistics from
the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Of those visits, 41.7 percent
were for children 11 years old or younger; 52.5 percent involved youths
between the ages of 12 and 17.
combination of unconditioned trunk muscles and a heavy backpack is a
cause of a lot of shoulder and back pain in children, says Dr. Angela
D. Smith, orthopaedic surgeon at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
"Back pain in
children used to be looked at as an uncommon medical problem, but we're
seeing more children complaining of back pain due to carrying heavy
backpacks," Smith said. "Much of back pain in school-age children is
now due to weak trunk muscles and poor flexibility. Even teens who are
playing soccer five days a week often lack the necessary strength and
flexibility to carry their heavy packs without pain."
should do exercises to strengthen their abdominal and back muscles,
AAOS said. Smith also makes the following recommendations concerning
choosing backpacks to her patients and their parents:
Participate in school physical-education classes, enroll in classes
outside of school or watch videos to learn how to condition your
- Choose a backpack on wheels if your school allows it.
- Buy a
camping-quality/style backpack with the appropriate structure and
design to allow for heavier weight; don't just go for what's
- Make sure the shoulder straps are padded and use both shoulders while carrying the backpack.
- Use a waist/hip strap to help distribute the weight evenly between the back and hips.
- Make sure the weight is carried close to the body and secured (belted).
- Use the correct lifting techniques: Remember, bend with both knees when picking up a heavy backpack.
- Place the heaviest items closest to your back.
- Neatly pack your backpack; try to keep items in place.
- Try to make frequent trips to your locker between classes to replace books.
nothing wrong with carrying a shoulder bag for small and light-weight
items, and holding the heavy items in your hands, Smith added.
recommendations on backpack weight have been between 15 percent and 20
percent when determining how much weight your child should carry, Smith
noted, "the actual weight of the backpack and its contents may vary
greatly depending on the strength of the child."