Ask the Expert - Back to School Backpack Tips

Ask the Expert - Back to School Backpack Tips

Q: With summer coming to a close and back-to-school right around the corner, what are your recommendations for proper backpack use?

A: While shoulder bags might be popular in some crowds, experts agree that backpacks are a much better option for carrying books, laptops and equipment. Worn correctly, a backpack is supported by the back and abdominal muscles, which are some of the strongest muscles in the body. How should the backpack be worn and more importantly, how much is too much to carry?

Improper backpack use can cause injury to children, whose muscles and joints are still growing. For school children, experts suggest loaded packs weigh no more than 10 – 15% of their body weight. "Heavy backpacks can lead to unnatural posture, which can cause lower and upper-back pain, and shoulder and neck strain as well as spinal compression," says Allison Orofino, MPT, Director of Rehabilitation at Marshall Medical Center.

Physical therapists recommend the following tips for safe backpack use:

  • Always wear both straps to evenly distribute the weight.
  • Make sure the backpack fits. Arms should be able to move freely when the pack is on, and the bottom of the pack should rest in the contour of the lower back

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