September 2016 The American Physical Therapy Association suggests ways for school children to properly wear a backpack. A padded back reduces pressure on the back, shoulders, and underarm regions, and enhance comfort.
Hip and chest belts transfer some of the backpack weight from the back and shoulders to the hips and torso.
Multiple compartments better distribute the weight in the backpack, keeping items secure, and easing access to contents.
Reflective material enhances visibility of the child to drivers at night.
Remove and put on backpacks carefully. Keep the trunk of the body stable and avoid excessive twisting. Wear both straps to better distribute the weight, and to promote a well-aligned symmetrical posture.
Position backpack carefully in the middle of the back, over the strongest mid-back muscles. Shoulder straps should be adjusted to allow the child to put on and take off the backpack without difficulty and permit free movement of the arms. Straps should not be too loose, and the backpack should not extend below the low back.
Lighten the load to about 10-15% or less of the student’s body weight. Carry only those items that are required for the day. Each night remove articles that can be left at home. Organize the contents of the backpack by placing the heaviest items closest to the back to reduce forces that cause postural malalignment and overwork the muscles. Use CD’s instead of full textbooks whenever possible; some students even have two sets of books so as not to have to carry the heavy books to and from school.
Backpacks with wheels are a good option for younger students who do not change classes or go up and down stairs frequently, but there are precautions to use with those as well. Be sure that the extended handle is long enough so that the child is not forced to twist and bend, and that the wheels are sufficiently large so that the backpack doesn’t shake or topple.
The warning signs that a backpack is too heavy: Change in posture when wearing the backpack; Struggling when putting on or taking off the backpack; Pain when wearing the backpack; Tingling or numbness in arms and legs, mostly arms; Red marks on the shoulders.
American Physical Therapy Association Information provided by Access Physical Therapy & Wellness