It’s still early in the school year, so kids’ backpacks are probably not filled to overflowing yet, but a chiropractor in Northern Virginia wants parents to know the dangers of carrying too much weight around.
Sports chiropractor Joshua Cole, with Sentara Health in Stafford says it’s an underdiscussed problem: “Honestly, I don’t get asked a lot about backpack safety for my patients.” But overweight backpacks can cause back problems and more.
“One study even showed that too much weight decreased the lung capacity, or the lung function,” Cole says. “And wearing the backpack weight on one shoulder — some studies show that there are actually physiological changes to the curves of [kids’] spines that the researchers could measure.”
Watching Their Weight
Cole endorses the official stance from the American Chiropractic Association. “The general consensus is, anything above 10 percent of the kid’s weight is excessive, and causes physiological changes and some injuries,” he says.
The first thing a parent should look at is the child’s posture while carrying the backpack fully loaded. Cole says signs that there may be a problem or adjustments may be needed are when “your kid is leaning forward to try to counterbalance the weight, their head is jutting out, their shoulders are kind of tugging at the backpack, they’re bent at the waist trying to keep up straight.”
Raising the backpack so it sits higher on the child’s torso can help with the posture problem, so the child is not leaning forward so much. Lower backpacks also impede the movement of their legs as they walk, “so they have to compensate.”
Sometimes schools aren’t very helpful in keeping backpacks manageable — occasionally, it turns out that your kid really does need all those things in the backpack that they say they do. Cole advises using rolling backpacks, if the school allows them, which not that many do. He also advises, if you can afford it, keeping one set of books at home and another at school, while acknowledging that some schools are taking away lockers. “There are there are definitely challenges to figure it out. Hopefully, in this digital age, maybe a lot of books will become digital.”
How Big Should a Backpack Be?
There isn’t as much of a hard-and-fast rule on backpack size, but parents should look for a variety of factors, like making sure the shoulder straps are padded. Cole also suggests approaching backpacks like ergonomic chairs — the more adjustments you can make, the more chances you have to make it fit your kid precisely.
And while a backpack needs at least one large compartment for books, small pockets are good for making sure things stay where they’re put, instead of jostling around during the walk to school.
Cole advises thinking of a backpack like a plate of food. “Studies have shown that having a smaller plate keeps your portions down and is overall healthier. If you have a backpack that’s not too large, then you might not be as inclined to pack in as much stuff.”
What to look for, from the American Chiropractic Association:
Feature image, stock.adobe.com
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