A backpack is an excellent way to tote important school items. However, if the backpack is too heavy or improperly worn, it can lead to back and shoulder injuries. The VBCPS School Health Advisory Board offers some guidelines on how to properly wear a backpack and avoid injury.
If a backpack is properly worn, it is supported by the body's strongest muscles. These muscles stabilize the body and keep it in good alignment. They are stronger and have better endurance than the muscles in the arms.
If the backpack is improperly worn, however, it can cause chronic pain and bad posture in students, especially those who are still growing.
Wear Both Straps
Wearing a backpack on one shoulder can cause a person to lean to one side in order to handle the uneven weight. Over time, this can cause excessive stress on upper and lower back, neck, shoulders and may cause functional scoliosis.
Students seem to be carrying heavier loads. Books, after school clothing, and laptops are heavy contents. Even when worn properly with both straps, leaning forward to compensate for the weight can affect the natural curve of the spine. A good rule to follow is keep the weight at 15 to 20 percent (or less) of the person’s body weight.
Backpack Style or Type
Make sure the backpack has wide straps. Narrow straps can be painful on the shoulders and press on nerves and blood vessels. Backpacks with waist belts are preferred. This helps to distribute the weight of the backpack more evenly. Backpacks with only one strap are not recommended. The weight of the backpack when empty is also to be considered.
For more information, visit the American Physical Therapy Association website.
Backpack Helpful Reminders
- Use both straps
- Make frequent locker stops
- Avoid carrying all books at one time
- Leave unnecessary items at home
- Lift backpack correctly by bending at the knees and lifting with your legs
- Inform your parents or nurse of any pain or discomfort.