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Back-to-School Backpack Safety

Going back to school is an exciting time for parents and students.  Through the hustle and bustle of new teachers, classes, schedules, and friends, an often overlooked aspect of going back to school is backpack safety.

As a doctor of chiropractic who has practiced in Pasadena for 24 years, I have seen firsthand how the failure to choose the right backpack can have negative effects on a child’s health.  Children who wear backpacks that are too heavy, or improperly fitted, can develop serious back trouble that will plague them for years.

As many as 55 percent of today’s students are carrying loads far in excess of the recommended 15% of body weight, with some students’ packs topping the scales at an alarming 40 pounds.  According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there has been nearly a 300 percent increase in backpack-related injuries among school children in America since 1996.

As a doctor of chiropractic, my goal is to improve the health of the members of my community and my patients, maintain their wellbeing and prevent further injury.  Given the weight of textbooks and the elimination of lockers at some schools for safety reasons, I and my colleagues at the California Chiropractic Association, believe raising awareness about backpack safety is more important than ever.

Parents and students need to know that often harm is occurring without obvious symptoms.  Students may be experiencing mild symptoms now, such as mild headaches and lower back pain.  Unfortunately, this could be a preview of coming ailments like chronic back pain and spine degeneration later in life.

One solution to heavy backpacks would be to reduce the weight of textbooks.  Another solution is to have one set of textbooks in the classroom and a separate set at home.  But, until changes are made, here are a few simple tips to keep in mind to help prevent backpack injuries.

California Chiropractic Association Backpack Safety Checklist

When choosing a backpack, look for:

  • padded shoulder straps
  • padded back
  • lumbar support
  • a waist belt
  • multiple compartments
  • correct size

How to pack:

  • Loaded backpacks should weigh no more then 15% of the child’s body weight
  • Distribute the weight properly; load heavier items closest to the back

How to wear:

  • Take the backpack off when standing for a long time
  • Wear both shoulder straps
  • Tighten straps until snug, but not tight
  • Use the stabilizing waist strap

I urge all parents to teach their children how to pack and carry a backpack correctly.  Children deserve a painless ‘back’-to-school, and with a little help, they can have one.

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