There are a lot of things that you need to consider when purchasing and carrying a backpack.
The first part is the purchase of it. I definitely recommend getting quality backpacks. Lands End and all these other companies make them. You also want to make sure that they come in a variety of sizes because backpacks are not one size fits all. They are age specific, so you can look for an appropriate size, especially for a child’s backpack when they’re very small. You can’t put an adult size backpack on a small child, so you want to make sure that it’s age and size specific. There are plenty of them out there that fit the bill. Make sure you take your time purchasing one. A good quality backpack is going to last longer and there should be some adjustability in the straps and you should preferably choose one that has a waist harness. That’s what I recommend looking for in the purchase of a backpack.
The second part is what are the best tips for carrying it? Carrying it is important, but loading it is also important. A child’s backpack should never weigh more than 10% of his body weight. Again, if you’re using a 100 pound kid as a guideline, the backpack shouldn’t be more than 10 pounds. You always want to load the heaviest items closest to the child’s back, so in the back of the pack you want to make sure that the heaviest things are closest to the spine. You want to arrange the books and materials so they don’t slide around and you want to make sure that everything the kid is carrying is necessary. They can carry an empty water bottle to school and then fill it up there and that would save weight. Also, if the backpack is too heavy or too tightly packed, they can carry another small bag in their hands, which will take a lot of pressure off the spine.
You always want to make sure that you distribute the weight evenly using both straps. You want to make sure that the straps are padded. Wearing a backpack slung over one shoulder will make a kid lean to one side and can cause the spine to curve and actually cause pain. You want to make sure that the adjustments, the shoulder straps pull the backpack so it’s snugly on the child’s back; you shouldn’t be able to slide your hands in there. There shouldn’t be any space between the child’s spine and the backpack.
Always wear the waist belt if the backpack has one. The bottom of the pack should rest right in the curve of the lower back, it shouldn’t be more than two to three inches below the child’s waistline.
Those are really the basic guidelines. Together with the parent’s help, children can develop these good habits and that will ensure proper growth and development of the spine and minimize any spinal issues or problems going forward. The last thing that I want to throw in is, when your child is carrying a backpack on a regular basis, they need to be checked by a chiropractor to make sure the spine is in good alignment. A spine that’s strong and in proper alignment can handle heavy loads without any negative impact. Those are the things I believe are most important in backpack safety.
Dr. Gregg D. Rubinstein, D.C., is a midtown Manhattan chiropractor with over 20 years of experience providing customized chiropractic treatment services to a wide range of clients in the Midtown Manhattan/West New York City area. Dr. Gregg Rubinstein and 57th Street Chiropractic can be reached at (917) 534-6484 and is located at 119 West 57th St. in New York, NY.