Fall is fast approaching, which means students of all ages will return to either the school commons or the university campus ready to begin a new academic year. The vast majority of them will arrive with a backpack in tow, and those who do are more than likely to have it loaded down with far too much weight.
Statistics from the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) reveal that students are suffering from back pain far more often than previous generations. The culprit? Overweight backpacks that are contributing to as many as 14,000 injuries per year. The ACA reports that of those students who are carrying heavy backpacks, 60 percent had experienced back pain as a result.
A backpack should not weigh more than 10 percent of the total body weight of the student carrying it. This backpack-to-student weight ratio is endorsed by the ACA and other organizations, such as the American Academy of Orthopedists (AAO) and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). That translates to no more than 7 pounds for a 70-pound third grader or 17 pounds for a 170-pound college freshman.
In general, the aforementioned organizations adhere to the “pack it light and wear it tight” rule regarding backpack safety. Consider the following 7 tips from the ACA to help prevent nagging injuries and needless pain caused by backpack misuse:
1) Make sure the backpack weighs no more than 10 percent of body weight.
2) The backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline.
3) Choose a backpack with individualized compartments to help in positioning the contents.
4) Bigger is not necessarily better. The more room, the more that can be carried.
5) Don’t hang the backpack off of one shoulder. Wear both shoulder straps. A backpack with a waist strap is also recommended.
6) Make sure the straps are wide and padded. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable and can dig into the shoulders.
7) The shoulder straps should be adjustable. Loose straps allow the backpack to dangle and can lead to pain or injury.
Following these tips will go a long way to helping students use backpacks safely. However, if pain or injury does occur, consider visiting a chiropractor. Doctors of chiropractic (D.C.’s) are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages. In addition, D.C.’s can recommend exercises designed to help alleviate pain and discomfort and provide instruction on good posture.
Dr. Mark Pfefer, director of research at Cleveland University-Kansas City (CU-KC), gave expert advice on backpack safety during a Kansas City television newscast. In the segment, Pfefer talked about the increasing number of backpack-related injuries being seen by clinicians and interns in the CU-KC Chiropractic Health Center. Click below to watch.