By Dr. Stacey Maslow, Department of Pediatrics
Reliant Medical Group
These days it seems like the average schoolchild is carrying more things in their backpack than ever before. Unfortunately, lugging around a too-heavy backpack from class to class can lead to discomfort as well as real physical problems including back pain, shoulder pain and even numbness and tingling in the arms. A too-heavy backpack has even been known to cause apophysitis, a painful inflammation of growth cartilage that can affect the shoulder and other parts of the body.
The biggest problem with children’s backpacks is usually too much weight. The rule of thumb is that a child should not carry more than 15% of their weight in a backpack. So if your child weighs 65 pounds, that would be about 10.75 pounds.
Here are some more tips to play it safe with backpacks:
- Always match the backpack to the child’s size. The backpack should sit approximately two inches above the hips for best fit.
- Look for backpacks with wide straps and padded backs for better weight distribution and greater comfort.
- Don’t purchase a backpack with just one strap – they can lead to back and shoulder problems down the road.
- Pack heavy items so they will be closest to the back when carried. Other lighter items can be organized in compartments further away from the body.
- Instead of keeping big, heavy textbooks inside the backpack all day, try storing them in a locker at school or at home if they are not always needed.
- Ask the teacher if some materials can be read online instead of using a textbook.
- Try to eliminate excess items from the backpack if they are no longer needed. That extra hairbrush and pair of cleats probably don’t need to be there!
If your child complains about their backpack or you notice discomfort when they put it on or take it off, be sure to discuss it with your child’s pediatrician. A backpack that is too heavy or not fitted properly can cause real health problems.
About Stacey Maslow, MD
Dr. Maslow has been practicing medicine for 17 years. When asked why she became a doctor, Dr. Maslow explains, “As a small child I frequented urban areas while accompanying my grandmother on various immigration and health projects that were her passion. These experiences sparked my fascination with how city life effects people and their physical and emotional health. I decided at the age of 11 that I wanted to be a doctor because I...View profile View posts by this doctor