As a father of three, I know all too well the list of to-do’s and to-get’s that goes along with sending kids back to school.  What I am finding is that as kids get older, the list gets longer and the prices go higher!

But, as a chiropractic physician, what I also know is that the stress on us as parents is mild compared to the potential stress on our kids’ bodies and spines when something as seemingly harmless as a back pack is not used properly.

The purpose of this short article is to help provide some pointers on back-pack safety so that you can ensure your kids are using this “back-to-school” necessity safely.

More dangerous than they look

“But it’s just a back pack!” one mother told me as I was instructing her child in our clinic on how to properly wear his pack.

“True”, I said, “but the thousands of kids and parents who end up in emergency rooms from improper back pack use each year thought the same thing!”

Believe it or not but the US Consumer Product Safety Commission once reported that more than 7,000 people had emergency visits because they used their back packs incorrectly.


In one year!

From “just a back pack”!

One study showed that 64% of kids ages 11-15 reported back pain directly linked to their back pack use and in 21% of them the pain became chronic…even when they were NOT using the back pack.

Older kids are not immune.  A Boston University study showed that 85% of college aged kids suffer from pain because of back packs.

But my kid needs to use one, so now what?

The primary factors leading to injury with back pack use are:

  • too much weight
  • packing the back pack incorrectly
  • improper back pack size
  • improper wearing of the pack

So, to DRAMATICALLY reduce the risk of your child suffering an injury from back pack use follow these 4 Steps:

Step 1:  Choose Right – choosing the right size pack is the MOST important step to safe back pack use.  The pack should never be wider or longer than your child’s torso or hang more than 4 inches below the waist.  Try to find a backpack that has a waist strap as well to help secure the backpack safely.

Step 2:  Pack Right – the  weight of the backpack should be between 10-15% of your child’s body weight and never exceed 20% of your child’s weight.  So, if your child weighs 65 lbs the pack should only weight between 6-9 lbs and not more than 13 lbs.

Step 3:  Lift Right – this is critical, as lifting incorrectly can cause an injury very quickly.  Because packs are often lifted multiple times per day it is important to do it so as to prevent as much strain on the back as possible.  First, check the weight of the pack and ensure that it is not too heavy.  Then, facing the backpack, bend at the knees and lift with the legs.  Swing one arm through a shoulder strap and then the other.  NEVER walk around using only one shoulder strap.

Step 4:  Wear Right – using both shoulder straps adjust them to a snug fit making certain the backpack is centered on the torso.  If your backpack has a waist strap secure that with a snug fit as well.

That’s it!

It may not seem like a big deal, but believe it or not, the improper use of a backpack now could cause permanent damage and curvature to the spine of your child and impact their health and quality of life for years to come.

Remember, any pain that lasts for more than a day or two should be checked out immediately!

Have a safe and happy school year everyone!

And remember…

It’s YOUR health, so FIGHT for it!

Mason Orth, DC
HealthSource Chiropractic and Progressive Rehab

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