Backpack safety tips to help your child carry books, not pain, on their back

Back to school doesn’t have to mean back to pain…backpack pain, that is!  Too often, students are unknowingly causing themselves damage because of the type of backpack they use or how they’re packing it.  Help protect your child or teenager’s back by following these tips recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Purchase a safer backpack.  Backpacks made from lightweight materials such as canvas and that have two wide, padded shoulder straps can be safer than packs made of heavier materials (like leather) or that have narrower straps.  The pack should also have a padded back–this increases comfort and decreases the likelihood that the student will be poked with an ill-placed, sharp pen or pencil in the backpack.
  • A backpack that has a waist belt as well as multiple compartments can both help to distribute the backpack’s weight more evenly across the student’s back.
  • Keep the load light.  Doctors and physical therapists recommend that a student should only carry 10% to 15% of his or her body weight on his back.
  • Organize the backpack smartly.  Make sure heavier items are kept closest to, and centered on, the back.
  • Use the backpack properly.  Make sure your child or teenager has both backpack straps on his shoulders–just slinging the backpack over one shoulder could cause pain and/or damage to the back.
  • Bend at the knees and use both hands to pick up a heavy backpack that’s been placed on the ground. 
  • Encourage the student to make frequent trips to their locker in order to lighten their load by dropping off some books.  Additionally, make sure they’re only bringing home the books and notebooks they need to do their homework–unneeded books should be kept in their locker.
  • Remind your child or teenager to only carry necessary items in a backpack–unnecessary portable video game systems, laptop computers, and other entertainment items can add unnecessary and painful poundage to the pack.
  • Be a “backpack advocate”—encourage your child or teenager’s teachers to go textbook-less, offering downloadable assignments and lesson plans that don’t require the student to lug a heavy book around.  Or, better yet, talk to school administrators and suggest the idea of going paperless, where students forgo the textbook in favor of a laptop on which they can read and complete their assignments.

If you have questions about how to keep your child safe and well while hauling textbooks, check into whether your employee benefits package includes any type of wellness advice or education.  For example, Health Advocate’s Wellness Coach can help its members get the health and wellness information they need on kids’ back health, how to pack a healthy lunch for your child, and more.


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