Workforce Wellness – Bon Secours


Back to School: Tips to Avoid Injuries from Wearing Heavy Backpacks

Back pain is not limited to adults! Parents and students shopping for a new school backpack this month may want to consider important safety tips to prevent back, neck and shoulder injuries.

Backpacks, the preferred choice for students to carry all of their daily school necessities, help distribute the weight of the load among some of the body’s strongest muscles. However, if not worn correctly, they also can be the source of injury. In fact, more than 28,000 people were treated in hospitals and doctors’ offices for injuries related to backpacks last year. More than 8,300 of those injuries were kids between the ages of 5 and 18, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

One of the best ways to avoid injuries is to lighten the load of backpacks, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America (POSNA).

Use both shoulder straps to keep the weight of the backpack better distributed, and adjust the shoulder straps to keep the load close to the back. Choosing a crossbody bag can also be a good alternative. Depending on the child’s commute and accessibility of school, roller bags may be an option.

Consider these tips from the AAOS and POSNA to help eliminate discomfort and reduce the risk of backpack-related injuries:

  • Remove or organize items if too heavy and pack the heavier things low and toward the center.
  • When lifting backpacks, bend at the knees.
  • School backpacks are for schoolwork. Carry only those items that are required for the day. If possible, leave books at home or school.
  • At home and at school, keep walkways clear of backpacks to avoid tripping over them.

Parents also can help with backpack-related pain:

  • Encourage your child or teenager to tell you about numbness or tingling in the arms or legs which may indicate poor fit or too much weight being carried.
  • If the backpack seems too heavy for the child, have them remove some of the books and carry them in their arms to ease load on the back.
  • Purchase a backpack appropriate for the size of your child.
  • Watch your child put on or take off the backpack to see if it is a struggle.
  • Encourage your child to stop at their locker throughout the day, as time permits, to drop off heavier books.

Do you have low back pain? Find out how physical therapists can treat low back pain through our programs at Bon Secours Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine. You can also learn about the leading-edge technology and surgical innovations used at the Bon Secours Orthopaedic Institute to diagnose and treat patients.

Sources: AAOS and 757 Good Health Blog

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