House Call: Backpack Awareness

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BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WDTV)-- Carrying too much weight in a pack or wearing it the wrong way can lead to pain and strain. Parents can take steps to help children load and wear backpacks the correct way to avoid health problems. Joining us on this week's House Call is Ginny Vincent, occupational therapist at United Rehab at UHC.

1). With National Backpack Awareness Day on Wednesday, September 18, what can parents do to help their child load his or her backpack properly?

Parents need to be aware that…

A child’s backpack should weigh no more than about 10% of his or her body weight. This means a student weighing 100 pounds shouldn’t wear a loaded school backpack heavier than about 10 pounds.

Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back (the back of the pack).

Arrange books and materials so they won’t slide around in the backpack.

Check what your child carries to school and brings home. Make sure the items are necessary for the day’s activities.

If the backpack is too heavy or tightly packed, your child can hand carry a book or other item outside the pack.

If the backpack is too heavy on a regular basis, consider using a book bag on wheels if your child’s school allows it.

2). Is there a proper way that parents need to be aware of concerning the fit of their child’s backpack?

Absolutely, parents will want to…

Distribute weight evenly by using both straps. Wearing a pack slung over one shoulder can cause a child to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort.

Select a pack with well-padded shoulder straps. Shoulders and necks have many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and tingling in the neck, arms, and hands when too much pressure is applied.

Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly on the child’s back. A pack that hangs loosely from the back can pull the child backwards and strain muscles.

Wear the waist belt if the backpack has one. This helps distribute the pack’s weight more evenly.

The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than four inches below the child’s waistline.

School backpacks come in different sizes for different ages. Choose the right size pack for your child as well as one with enough room for necessary school items.

3). What are the warning signs that parents and children need to be mindful of concerning a backpack being too heavy?

If your child is experiencing one or more of the following…

• Difficulty when putting on or taking off the backpack
• Pain when wearing the backpack
• Tingling or numbness in the arms or legs
• Red strap marks over the anterior part of the shoulders
• Any change in side to side posture while wearing the backpack

4). How should your child put on his or her backpack?

Teach your child to pick up the backpack by bending and lifting in the knees instead of the waist to prevent back injury. The selection of a backpack is a family affair. By joining together as a team children will realize the importance of proper backpack wearing. It should be considered a fun family activity. The bottom line message is to have children begin to take more responsibility for their physical health.

Parents it is important that you adjust the shoulder and waist straps so that the pack fits comfortably. To ensure a proper fit, make sure the backpack does not extend past your child’s shoulders, or below the top of the hipbones.