While a backpack is still one of the best ways to tote homework, an overloaded or improperly worn backpack gets a failing grade, according to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).
Improper backpack use can cause injury, especially to children with young, growing muscles and joints. A study led by APTA member Shelley Goodgold, PT, associate professor of physical therapy at Simmons College in Boston, found that 55 percent of the children surveyed carried backpack loads heavier than 15 percent of their body weight, the maximum safe weight for children recommended by most experts.
Northern Physical Therapy tips to help aid this growing issue are:
• Wear both straps
Use of one strap causes one side of the body to bear the weight of the backpack.
By wearing two shoulder straps, the weight of the backpack is better distributed.
• Wear the backpack over the strongest mid-back muscles
Pay close attention to the way the backpack is positioned on the back. It should rest evenly in the middle of the back. Shoulder straps should be adjusted to allow the child to put on and take off the backpack without difficulty and allow free movement of the arms. Straps should not be too loose, and the backpack should not extend below the low back.
• Lighten the load
Keep the load at 10-15% or less of the child’s bodyweight. Carry only those items that are required for the day. Organize the contents of the backpack by placing the heaviest items closest to the back. Some students have two sets of books so as not to have to carry the heavy books to and from school.
How Northern Physical Therapy Can Help
A physical therapist can help you choose a proper backpack and fit it specifically to your child. Children come in all shapes and sizes, and some have physical limitations that require special adaptations.
Additionally, a physical therapist can help improve posture problems, correct muscle imbalances, and treat pain that can result from improper backpack use. Physical therapists can also design individualized fitness programs to help children get strong and stay strong—and carry their own loads!
Stop by any of our five clinics to get your child fitted properly for their backpack. It only takes a few minutes, and its free.