Don’t let your backpack weigh you down: tips for keeping it light

By KATIE COLE / Lifestyles Editor

There are a few items that will be on almost every student’s school shopping list, no matter his or her age.

Your child is guaranteed to need pencils and paper. A backpack is probably on many students’ lists as well.

A backpack is a helpful tool for transporting books and other supplies. However, if worn improperly, a backpack can cause health problems.

“It could cause knee problems, lower back pain, mid-back pain, neck pain,” said Nathan Click, a physical therapist at the Alabaster/Pelham office of TherapySouth. “It can generally contribute to poor posture.”

Click did a study on student backpack use 10 years ago at Auburn University. The study found that most students’ backpacks were too heavy, weighing between 20-50 pounds.

“It’s probably better (now) with the new technology and education,” he said.

Click said today’s students probably have fewer problems because they carry lighter loads thanks to new technology, such as laptops and tablets, which have replaced heavy books, in some cases.

Backpacks are also better designed now, he said. Click uses an Ivar, a backpack that is ergonomically designed to distribute weight evenly using shelves within the compartments.

“The more compartments, the better,” Click said. “That distributes the weight a little better.”

Click and the American Academy of Pediatrics provided the following tips for backpack safety.

*Waist and chest straps will help shift some of the weight off the shoulders.

*Contoured and padded shoulder straps and padded lumbar support help protect the shoulders and distribute the weight evenly.

* Backpacks should be worn with both straps on the shoulders.

*Choose a backpack with multiple compartments.

*Don’t overpack the bag. A backpack should weigh 10 to 20 percent of your child’s weight.

* Make sure your child buys the proper size bag. Children should not use adult-size backpacks.