By Channing King
Fall is in full swing, and that means school is back in session. During this time, it is important to take a serious look at backpack safety. You might be wondering, “Why?” Research shows that more than 40 million students carry backpacks and that more than half of those students carry more than the recommended 15 percent of their body weight.
It is also interesting to note that a 1998 study showed that more than 3,300 children, ages 5-14 years old, were treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to their backpacks; this does not include students who went to chiropractors or family physicians. This topic is one we all need to pay close attention to so that we can help our kids understand the importance of backpack safety.
What is the proper way to wear and use a backpack? There are two easy steps to remember. First, lighten the load. Most doctors and therapists recommend the backpack not weigh more than 10-15 percent of the child’s body weight. If you do not know how to find the right weight, get a bathroom scale and weigh your child. Multiply that weight by 10-15 percent. This is how much they should carry. So if your child weighs 80 pounds, the pack should only weigh between 8 and 10 pounds.
The second thing to remember is to wear the backpack safely. It is important that your child use both of the shoulder straps. When backpacks are slung over one shoulder or across the chest, weight is not evenly distributed and can cause muscle strain
. Remember to tighten the straps so that the backpack fits closely to the body and sits two inches (five centimeters) above the waist. Some of today’s backpacks even have a latch that connects both straps across the front of the chest. This ensures even distribution.
There are health problems that are sometimes associated with backpack use. In order to understand how backpacks can affect your kid’s health, it is important to know how the back works. The brain sends healing messages down your spinal cord out of your nerves. When you have stresses on your spine, like those associated with improper backpack use, this can cause muscle strain and improper alignment. The bones that surround your brainstem, spinal cord and nerves tend to shift, causing nervous system problems. Your nervous system controls your whole body including your organs, muscles, tissues and cells.
It is important for children to have a well-functioning spine and nervous system to stay healthy and develop well. If your child is not getting regular spinal checkups, let us know, and we will be more than happy to do an exam. During this school season, do not forget to make sure that their backpack is used correctly.