Each school year millions of children walk to, from, and around school carrying backpacks filled with books and materials. Parents and students should be aware that too much stress on the back from a heavy backpack could cause back pain and possible back issues in children.
On September 17, 2014, we’ll be celebrating the American Occupational Therapy Association’s (AOTA) National School Backpack Awareness Day, a great day each year to learn more about taking steps to prevent future back problems in children. Join AOTA and occupational therapy practitioners, educators, and students across the country, as we help others learn to avoid the pain and injury that can come from heavy backpacks and bags.
In preparation for the day, we’re offering a few quick facts and tips to help understand the potential impact and take steps now to ensure backpack safety for your growing children.
- Back pain caused by backpacks is often short term — such as a muscle strain – and may be alleviated with a short period of rest or reduced activity. Any type of back pain that persists is uncommon and should be evaluated by a medical professional.
- Habitually carrying backpacks over one shoulder will make muscles strain to compensate for the uneven weight.
- A heavy backpack can pull on the neck muscles, contributing to headache, shoulder pain, lower back pain and/or neck and arm pain.
Some tips to help:
- Take breaks and rest if any pain is felt in the back and consider lightening the load if possible. Any pain being felt is a sign the backpack is too heavy for the body.
- Be sure to use both straps for support to avoid the spine leaning to the opposite side and stressing the middle back, ribs, and lower back more on one side than the other.
- Purchase a backpack with lightweight material (e.g. canvas), a padded back and hip or waist buckles for extra support. Another alternative is wheeled backpacks to completely free the back of any stress.
You can help others in your community by organizing local events and educating people of all ages about proper bag usage. Teach others how to properly choose, pack, lift, and carry various types of bags—including backpacks, purses, briefcases, and suitcases. Check out the event planning tips and strategies available below. Learn more about AOTA’s National School Backpack Awareness Day.
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