Picking and Packing School Backpacks for Safety

Dr. Justin KubeckBy: Justin P. Kubeck, M.D.

Many students use backpacks to carry their school books and supplies, but improper use can lead to muscle and joint injury, neck and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems.  Although they are linked to posture problems, heavy backpacks do not cause scoliosis. Scoliosis is a sideways curve of the spine that often shows up in children during adolescence.

Parents should select a lightweight backpack for their children with wide, padded shoulders; two shoulder straps; a padded back; and a waist strap. Children should always use both shoulder straps and tighten them so the pack is close to the body and held two inches above the waist. A “cross-body” strapped bag can also be used.

If possible, children should avoid carrying all the books they need for the day and, instead, make frequent stops at their lockers and leaving unnecessary books and items home or at school.  If heavier items are being carried pack them low and towards the center of the backpack. Teach your kids to bend using both knees when wearing or lifting a heavy backpack, instead of bending at the waist. Watch your child put on or take off the backpack to see if it is a struggle. If the backpack seems too heavy for the child, have them remove some of the books and carry them in their arms to ease load on the back.

Remember to encourage your child or teenager to tell you about numbness, tingling, or discomfort in the arms or legs which may indicate poor backpack fit or too much weight being carried. Don’t ignore any back pain in a child or teenager. More serious causes of back pain need early identification and treatment or they may become worse. Always see a health care provider if your young child’s back pain lasts for more than several days or progressively worsens.

Follow these tips to help your children avoid back pain or injury this school year!

Board certified orthopedic surgeon and spinal surgery specialist Justin P. Kubeck, M.D., is part of the Neck and Back Center at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center-Old Bridge. His office is located at Raritan Bay-Old Bridge, 2 Hospital Plaza, Suite 310. The Neck and Back Center is part of the Human Motion Institute at Raritan Bay and utilizes a nurse navigator to guide patients through their care. To make an appointment, call 855-5-MOTION.

 

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