Backpack Safety for Schoolchildren

Backpack SafetyKids have to carry a lot of stuff back and forth to school – books, homework, technology, lunches, snacks, jackets, equipment for sports and other after-school activities, and more. Many children (and their parents) opt for a single backpack that is large enough to tote all of it. However, while that option may be convenient, it can also pose some health risks. For instance, a backpack that is too heavy or worn incorrectly can cause joint and muscle problems that lead to neck or back pain down the road.

Of course, you can’t control the amount of homework your child has. But, you can take steps to help protect his or her back, such as:

  • Choosing the right backpack – Look for a lightweight, structured pack with a padded back panel, two wide shoulder straps, and a waist strap.
  • Ensuring a good fit – Adjust the straps so that the pack fits snugly against your child’s body, with the pack resting in the middle of his or her back (so that it is positioned over the strongest muscles in the back and abdomen).
  • Showing your child how to wear the pack correctly – A backpack should always be worn over both shoulders. In their haste, many children simply sling their packs over one shoulder and go. This creates an uneven weight distribution that exerts excess pressure on certain joints and muscles.
  • Teaching your child proper lifting form – To pick up a backpack or other heavy object, it is important to bend at the knees and lift using the strength of the legs.
  • Filling the pack efficiently – Load the pack with the heaviest items at the bottom and the lightest items at the top. This will center the weight over your child’s hips (and also save his or her lunch from being crushed).

If you notice that your child tends to slouch or lean to one side, develops red marks on his or her shoulders, or complains about neck or back pain, numbness, or tingling, check his or her backpack. As a general rule of thumb, a child should carry no more than 15 percent of his or her body weight. You can use a bathroom scale to determine the weight of the pack.

If you’d like to discuss this or any other health-related topic with a physician, please contact or visit South Tampa Immediate Care. Our walk-in clinic is conveniently located on South Howard Avenue in Tampa, FL, and no appointments are necessary.