With most kids back at school this week, its a timely reminder of the importance of wearing back packs correctly. Incorrect loading can result in children experiencing low back pain, upper back pain, rib sprains, neck pain and headaches.
I unfortunately experienced this first hand as a child. Way back in the dark ages before laptops and iPads were common place, we used to cart all our books to and from school everyday. My bag weighed a tonne!!! Needless to say, I did not wear the backpack correctly and preferred to sling it over one shoulder, like all the “cool kids”! I started experiencing sharp pain in my upper back slightly to the right side – the side that I carried my bag, particularly when breathing in. After a lot of complaining, my mum took me to an Osteopath who diagnosed me with an upper rib sprain. If you don’t know what that is please read our blog here for more information.
In a nutshell, with carrying a heavy bag on just one side, my ribs were being compressed and thus strained every time I lugged my back pack around. My osteopath advised me to carry my back pack correctly. I was of course very reluctant, however the pain was so bad that I eventually relented and my upper back went back to normal – no more pain! I had learnt my lesson!
Here are some our tips for fitting a back pack correctly
- Always wear both shoulder straps rather than slinging your backpack with one strap on one shoulder. It takes a moment longer but this simple habit can help prevent problems.
- Adjust the shoulder straps so the backpack is high on your back and the shoulder straps are comfortable on your shoulders. The pack should not extend past your waist—it should ride an inch or more above your hips.
- Readjust the straps when you are wearing different thicknesses of clothing so they are not too tight nor too loose.
- Your backpack should not sway from side to side as you walk. That can lead to chafing from the shoulder straps and from rubbing against your back. A stable load is better.
- If the backpack has a waist strap or chest strap, you should use it. Waist straps help to distribute the weight load to the hips, relieving shoulder pressure. A chest strap helps keep the shoulder straps in place and reduces swaying of the pack.
With your pack fitted and positioned properly, you should be able to wear it even for running without it swaying.
Some common mistakes made when wearing a backpack
- Using only one strap – slinging (exactly what I did as a kid!)
It is easy and stylish to carry your backpack slung over one shoulder, using only one strap. However, this position puts all of the pressure on one shoulder. You cannot walk with good posture with a load of several pounds on one shoulder only.
We’ve found that wearing a backpack slung over one shoulder can lead to low back pain, upper back pain, rib sprains, neck pain and headaches. Even if you switch back and forth between shoulders, you are walking off-balance. This puts a strain on all the muscles, ligaments and joints in your spine, not to mention your hips and core.
- Wearing it hanging too low
Wearing a backpack low on your back increases the pressure on the shoulders. This position may lead to shoulder and lower back strain. This low back position may force you to lean forward which places pressure on the lower back.
- Too heavy
It is recommended that children should carry no more than 10 percent to 20 percent of their body weight in their backpack. You may have to help lighten your child’s backpack. If you can’t lighten the load enough, consider a rolling backpack for your child.a backpack low on your back increases the pressure on the shoulders. This position may lead to shoulder and lower back strain. This low back position may force you to lean forward which places pressure on the lower back.
Hopefully all you mums and dads out there found this useful. If you have, please share it with other friends who might find it helpful. I hope you and your children enjoy the school year! Please feel free to email me directly with any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org