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Backpacks 101

When your child ventures into the middle school era, his or her backpack burden begins to develop. Loaded with everything from textbooks, lunch bags, pencil cases, sports gear, mobile phones, Ipods, Blackberrys, and even Laptops, these backpacks get weighed down with some of a kid’s most personal possessions.

The question, as always, is whether or not overloaded backpacks carry serious health risks. Experts have been giving consistent lessons regarding kids' backpacks, covering:

  • Effect on your child's muscles and bones

  • The right backpack to look for when the new school year is about to begin

  • How to pack and wear a backpack to reduce pain and maximize comfort.

Are Backpacks Really a Risk?

School backpacks are a commodity, holding all the necessities kids need to make it through the day. But when the backpack starts to weigh your child down, could it be causing long-term damage?

Many doctors have reported parents worry that their child might have scoliosis because of a heavy backpack. In reality, explains several spokespersons for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), scoliosis is not a danger. But kids' backpacks can cause back, shoulder, and neck pain when they're too heavy and worn constant for a long period of time.

While your child might have pain related to a heavy backpack, it has been stated that parents do not need to worry that their child is going to end up with a back deformity, nor are backpacks going to create a problem that is going to need surgery.

Kids' backpacks aren't likely to cause long-term damage to muscle or bone as a result of constant wear.

The right backpack -- packed and worn properly -- can be a valuable tool from elementary school all the way through college.

How to Choose a Backpack

There are many backpack brands available to choose from, starting from about $10 and running upwards of $50 or more. When you're shopping for the new school year, here are some backpack basic tips to follow:

  • Secured Straps - Look for a backpack with two straps secured with what is known as a “cross-bar-tacking” method. This allows the person to wear the backpack lower taking all the stress away from the seam of the body. Besides, it will never come apart at the tacking. The “Harness-Back” method keeps the straps off the neck and the ergonomic design splits the weight of the backpack across the shoulders.

  • Shoulder Straps – Thick and Functional. Padded shoulder straps help prevent the straps from digging into your child's shoulders, and chest. Try to find a strong adjustable puller to easily adjust the straps to your desired comfort. Look for specially designed “parachute ring” pullers attached to the strap. This makes it easier to pull on and adjust.

  • Padded Back - A padded back adds extra cushion offering comfort with support. The “air-flow” system prevents excessive sweating on the back by allowing enough space for air to pass while wearing the backpack. The thicker the back padding the better the cushioning.

  • Rolling Backpacks. Backpacks with wheels ease the burden of carrying a lot of weight around all day. The “glider or inline skate wheel  - allows the backpack to roll with ease. A “telescopic” handle is a must have in order to adjust the pull height. All rollers should be able to wheel up to 50lbs or more of school supplies depending on the capacity size. Remember, many schools have restrictions so check with your child's school before you buy a backpack with wheels.

    Pack for Comfort
    A backpack loaded with a day's worth of books and gear can be a heavy burden for your child. Before you start packing, experts recommend a simple set of guidelines to follow that will help you measure the weight of your kid's backpack against his or her body weight.It is recommended that a child should not carry a backpack that exceeds 15% of their body weight. You can easily weigh your child’s backpack on any bathroom-type scale. It will be a close approximation to help you judge whether or not you are putting your child at risk of developing back pain. This chart below explains:


How to Properly wear a Backpack

Does your child really know how to wear a backpack properly? Our experts offer backpack tips to help kids get in the comfort zone:

  • Pack heaviest books in the main compartment of the backpack.

  • Backpacks are loaded with pockets and compartments. Try to use all of these pockets, and distribute the load throughout all of the different compartments to even out the weight.

  • Always cinch both shoulder straps so the backpack fits snug against your back. Using the parachute rings.

  • Slinging one of the backpack straps over one shoulder can cause muscle pain in the neck, back, and shoulder. So always use both straps.

  • Encourage your child to remove items not needed for the day to reduce unnecessary and excessive weight.

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