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In 2017 the Consumer Products Safety Commission estimated 7,800 children and adolescents ages 5-18 were treated in emergency departments for injuries related to backpacks. Many students experience back, neck, and shoulder pain from oversized and overstuffed backpacks. The combination of carrying backpacks much too heavy for a child’s physical capacity combined with an increasing sedentary lifestyle (Facebook, Xbox, Playstation), means our children are now reporting back pain at similar rates as adults.

To avoid backpack-related pain consider the following tips:

• Bigger is not better; the larger the backpack, the more likely your child will carry a backpack that is too heavy. When fully loaded, a child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10 percent of their total body weight. A heavier backpack will cause your child to bend forward to support the weight on their back, rather than the shoulders.

• Your child’s backpack should never hang more than 4 inches below the waistline.

• Shoulder pads should be wide, padded and the straps adjustable so the backpack better fits your child’s body.

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• Urge your child to wear both shoulder straps. Lugging their backpack around by one strap will cause a disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and back pain.

• Purchase a backpack with multiple compartments so smaller items can be positioned more effectively and make sure pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on your child’s back.

These simple steps can help ensure students in your household avoid backpack-related pain.

Vern Saboe Jr., DC, FACO

Albany (Sept. 1)

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