This post is the second in my Wellness Wednesday series brought to you in sponsored partnership with Aurora Health Care.
Now that all the students are back in school and the year is in full swing, students are starting to move into a heavier workload. As their workload gets heavier, so do their backpacks. If your child is anything like mine, they are full of complaints about everything school related those first few weeks. But if your child is complaining about a heavy backpack, do they have a valid concern? They just might.
Some years, heavy backpacks have caused over 22,000 injuries including strains, sprains, dislocations (ouch!) and in severe cases even fractures. Injuries can affect both tissue and muscles and most often affect the neck, shoulder, and back and can result in life-long pain.
How can you tell if your child’s backpack is too heavy?
There are a few signs that can tip you off that your child’s backpack is too heavy. Does your child have pain while wearing their backpack? Do they complain of numbness or tingling in their arms, hands, or fingers? Do you see red marks on their neck or shoulders after wearing the backpack? Do you see your child struggling to put on or take off the backpack and do you see a change in their posture once they have it on? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you will want to take another look at how much weight they are carrying in that backpack.
The medical experts at Aurora recommend that your child’s backpack weigh no more than 10 to 15 percent of your child’s total body weight. To put that into perspective:
- If your child weighs 40 pounds, the pack should weigh no more than 4 to 6 pounds.
- If your child weighs 58 pounds, the pack should weigh 5.8 to about 8 pounds or less.
- If your child weighs 72-pound the pack should weigh less than 7 to 11 pounds.
It’s amazing how quickly just a few items can add up to that maximum recommended weight.
So what can you do to help make your child’s backpack a little safer?
Instruct your child to use both straps of the backpack. I’m especially guilty of slinging my backpack over one shoulder and went through most of college doing this. It’s actually much better for your back to use both straps as this distributes the weight in the bag more evenly. if the bag has a chest or waist belt, encourage your child to use it. These are designed to help take some of the stress off of the back as well. Finding a backpack with padded straps can also make wearing it more comfortable.
If your child’s school has a bottle filling station, encourage your child to bring an empty, reusable water bottle to school and fill it there rather than bringing beverages with them. Since Josh needs to stay hydrated with lots of water due to a medical condition, we always sent him to elementary school with a big bottle of water. It is amazing how much weight one big bottle can add! Now that he is in middle school, he brings an empty bottle and fills it at school.
Encourage your child to only bring home the items they need for that day. It is tempting for kids to put their entire locker into their bag to avoid forgetting something. We switched Josh over to a lightweight multi-subject binder rather than having a separate binder for each subject and that has helped a lot. Encourage your child to put the heaviest items in the back of the bag, closest t his or her back. If there is a day where more books need to come home and the backpack is too heavy, encourage your child to bring a tote bag or carry a few in their arms.
The easiest way to get a true picture of how much your child’s backpack weighs is to use a luggage scale to get an accurate weight. (You can grab one for under $10 and they also come in handy for avoiding those overweight baggage fees when you fly!)
For more information and helpful resources about backpack safety for kids, check out this article from Aurora!