Back to School Without Back Pain – Avoiding Common Backpack Injuries

As a parent of young students or an adult enrolled in additional education, you know that hitting the books can sometimes feel like hitting the gym. Hauling the necessary texts from class to class can sometimes cost you more than the price of tuition or those new study supplies.

The common backpack has its advantages, but all that weight on those two narrow straps can cause serious damage. If you’re not careful, you may end up with a chronic injury to carry along with your education.

This time of year, the team at Alabama Orthopaedic Surgeons knows that children are especially at risk of developing poor habits or long-term injuries given their size and the relative load they’re required to cart around.

But there is good news. Properly managing the weight and how it’s carried can improve posture, ward against injuries, and keep everyone healthy enough to focus on their studies.


It’s All in the Pack

A good backpack properly distributes the load over your shoulders and allows your larger muscles to bear the burden. Choosing the right pack is the best preventative measure.

When it comes to distributing the weight, a lighter backpack is the place to start. A pack with two broad straps, a padded back pad, or an adjustable belt can be all that much better.

While kids especially may opt for a trendier looking design over the sensible option, encouraging the practical choice can pay dividends in the long run. Single strap packs or packs made of fancier materials (which are heavier from the outset) can cause real damage.


Managing the Weight

Depending on school policy or student schedule, it’s not always possible to leave books or heftier supplies behind. Even so, if a student can store materials near the classroom rather than carrying them all day long, they should strive to do so.

The student in your life may also carry additional objects that add to the overall load. While digital tablets or notebook-style devices can generally be light, laptops, bulky chargers, and other unnecessary personal items can quickly topple an already hefty pack.

Reducing your backpack’s contents to the barest essentials may feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s nothing compared to the discomfort of a long-term injury.


Carrying the Right Way

Younger students aren’t the only ones who fear looking un-cool. And so long as the typical image of the “popular kid” with only one strap slung over their shoulder persists, students of all ages will think it’s the “better” way.

Using both straps and tightening the slack keeps the weight nearer to your center of gravity while prohibiting movement. Loose packs can tug or twist the upper body when navigating halls and stairwells or while walking in adverse conditions like rain or snow.

Using a pack’s inbuilt belt can redistribute some of the weight and make it noticeably easier to haul. All in all, feeling well and being healthy are more important than any short-term bid to look “cool.”


Do the Math

A simple thing to keep in mind is this: the lighter the child, the lighter the load. General wisdom holds that a child’s backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10-20 percent of that child’s body weight.

Loading a backpack with the necessary gear and weighing it in relation to your child’s weight ahead of time can save serious pain throughout the semester or school year. If the pack’s pushing it, take whatever precautions or alternate plans to lessen the heft.


Back to School without Back Pain

Unfortunately, being young is not a guarantee of health. Children are still developing and may not be strong enough or diligent enough to know when they’re hurting themselves.

Alabama Orthopaedic Surgeons know that a healthy student is a better student. If the student in your life complains of numbness, shoulder, neck, or back pain, consult a physician about proper techniques to avoid the back-to-school aches.

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