At our house, we are almost through the first full week of school. Already, my high schooler has complained of her neck and upper back hurting. I'm sure there are a number of reasons: sitting all day, beginning swim practice, then sitting on her bed with her books in her lap. And then, there is her back pack. This year, the books are bigger, and she carries a computer.
As a teenager, she will be able to adjust to the load with a little bit of strengthening, but what about the smaller, elementary kids? Have you seen your children or grandchildren with backpacks half their size, and to keep from falling backwards they have to bend over for balance?
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons official recommendation is that backpacks should weigh no more that 20% of your body weight. This is a good rule of thumb for adults, but for small children the backpack should ideally be be closer to 10% of their body weight.
Tips to Lighten the Load
1. When choosing a backpack, look for lightweight, durable material. Leather or thick canvas backpacks can add weight before you even put a book in it.
2. Choose the smallest backpack that will fit the necessary books. If your child it like mine, he is particular about the color and design, but try to limit their options to the appropriate size.
3. Adjust the backpack to fit properly. Make sure the straps are tightened and the load is placed on their upper back, not sagging down on their low back.
4. Pack a separate lunch box and put in empty water bottles that can be filled once at school.
5. Use online resources or scan chapters. If the textbook can be read at home online or with a kindle, use those resources so the heavy textbook can be left at home.
6. Look for used textbooks. Sometimes you can find an inexpensive used copy of textbooks that can be left at home to alleviate carrying the heavy books back and forth.
7. Clean out backpacks frequently. Some kids are better than others in keeping organized. Make sure old water bottles, left over lunch items, and no longer used books are not getting lost at the bottom of the backpack .
If you or your family member continues to have neck or shoulder pain after adjusting the load, download our Free Ebook "8 Easy Tips to Decrease Neck and Shoulder Pain" for other ways to relieve symptoms.
We help active adults get back to exercising, feeling fit, and participating in the activities they love without medications, injections, or surgery.
Catherine Courtney, PT
Specialist Physical Therapist