“Back” to school: backpack safety

Sue Ellen Edrington, MSN, CNP, RN-BC
Clinical Educator, Riverview Hospital

Well, it’s back to school time. Most of our children are heading out to school with their backpack. Backpacks are better alternatives to carrying school supplies than heavy totes, messenger bags, or rolling totes. Heavy totes and messenger bags can cause pressure on the shoulder, strain to the lower back, and potentially nerve compression. Rolling totes can result in poor posture and back strain trying to deal with steps, stairs, and snow. So, you have gone shopping found the backpack of your child’s preference and they are ready for school. But do you know if it is safe?

Backpacks distribute the weight of  books and school supplies evenly across the back, and the weight is supported by the abdominal muscles. The best backpack should be made of lightweight material that is sturdy. The back should be padded and the straps should be wide. Your child should not carry more than 10 to 15% of his or her body weight in the back. If your child has to lean forward while wearing the backpack, they are carrying too much weight.

Guidelines for your children should include carrying only the items necessary in their backpacks, not a day’s worth of supplies. Both shoulder straps should be used and if the backpack has a waist strap, it should be worn. The straps should be adjusted so that the weight is across the back and the backpack does not sit lower than the waist. Also, make sure your child is aware of the depth of his or her backpack. Many injuries are the result of a child turning around and hitting another child or tripping over a backpack sitting on the floor.

If your child is experiencing low back pain or tingling or numbness in arms or hands, contact your child’s pediatrician.

Here’s to a safe and great school year! Please visit the link below for additional information: