Children today have a ton of pressure on them, literally. Yes, we are all familiar with standardized tests and the nightmares it gives teachers and parents. But I’d like to shed a little light on the pressures caused by the physical load’s kids are carrying to school every day. The image provided was published online by The Huffington Post a few years ago for the first time, but it’s still very applicable today. In my opinion, one of the greatest points made by the infographic is the statement down in the bottom, a right-hand corner that states the backpack should weigh no more than 10-15% of the child’s body weight. Simple math will make you realize your 100-pound child should carry no more than 10-15 pounds (or 8-12 pounds for an 80-pound child) on their back. Luckily, many school districts are now using textbooks less and less, but electronic devices are still a significant load for our kids. The latest MacBook Air weighs 2.96 pounds. If your child carries a water bottle, 16 ounces of water weighs 1.04 pounds (not including the container). One large textbook can easily weigh over 4 pounds. We haven’t even mentioned binders, cell phone, lunch, gym equipment or extra clothes they may be carrying around. I recommend you go check your kid’s pack right now and unload whatever is unnecessary.
Next, is the topic of weight distribution. Anyone working in a setting where lifting is required has likely been through a safety course that talks about back safety. A large part of the time is likely spent covering safe lifting techniques. Physical Therapists and ergonomics experts will always tell you, “keep the load close to your body.” The same principle applies when carrying a load, whether in the front with your arms or on your back. You want to carry the heaviest loads near your center of gravity. So, for your child, place the heavy books and electronic devices “close and low” to the body in the backpack. This will lessen the likelihood that they will need to stoop forward just to stay upright. I encourage parents to look for backpacks with waist straps to keep the pack close to the body, which will help put some of the load on the hips and off the shoulders.
Speaking of the shoulders, I am a fan of packs with wide, padded shoulder straps. And while we are at it, backpacks come with two straps for a reason. Use them! The wide straps spread the load nicely and can minimize pressure on the nerves and blood supply to the arms and hands. If your child is only using one strap, they are likely to develop some sort of muscular imbalance at the very least. Heavy backpacks are going to encourage improper postures with forwarding rounded shoulders. Such postures also tend to coincide with forwarding neck posture (the close cousin of “tech neck” which we will talk about in a future post).
If your child is coming home from school and complaining of neck, shoulder, or back pain you might want to consider the backpack he is carrying around. Anyone reading this post is welcome to call Foundation Therapy and set up an appointment for us to check your child’s backpack and how it fits, free of charge. Remember, we as adults are responsible for protecting the well being of our children. Many of our children are tough. They might not even be telling us they have pains in the neck or back as a result of the loads being lugged around. Talk to your children about the importance of good posture at all times. I promise you will be doing them a favor in the long run.