When back-to-school shopping this year, there is one essential item that requires very special attention: your child's backpack. In 2013 alone, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission cited 5,415 backpack-related injuries treated at emergency rooms. Chiropractic physicians suggest that backpacks weigh no more than 5 to 10 percent of the child's body weight.
In addition, ACA offers the following backpack safety checklist for parents ahead of back-to-school season:
*Is the backpack the correct size for your child? The backpack should never be wider or longer than your child's torso, and the pack should not hang more than 4 inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking.
*Does the backpack have two wide, padded shoulder straps? Wide, padded straps are very important. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable and can dig into your child's shoulders.
*Does your child use both straps? Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause a disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as low-back pain.
*Are the shoulder straps adjustable? The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child's body. Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain.
*Does the backpack have a padded back? A padded back not only provides increased comfort, but also protects your child from being poked by sharp edges on school supplies (pencils, rulers, notebooks, etc.) inside the pack.
*Does the pack have several compartments? A backpack with individualized compartments helps position contents most effectively. Make sure that pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on your child's back.