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Backpacks

The While a backpack is still one of the best ways to carry a heavy load, a back pack which is too heavy or improperly-worn may cause harm to our joints or muscles. Properly worn, a backpack is supported by the strongest muscles in the body: the back and abdominal muscles, which work together to stabilize the trunk and hold the body in its correct alignment. The improper use of a back pack can present some real dangers, especially with the youth who has bones, joints and muscles that are still growing.

Here are some guidelines recommended by the American Physical Therapy Association

• Wear both straps: Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can cause leaning to compensate for the uneven weight, curving the spine. Over time, this can cause back pain, strained shoulders and neck, and/or a curved spine.

• Make sure the backpack is not too heavy:Students often carry a full day’s worth of textbooks, a change of clothing, and even a laptop computer. With all this, a backpack can weigh 20 to 50 pounds! Even when worn properly with both straps, leaning forward to compensate for the extra weight can affect the natural curve in the lower back. It can also cause rounding of the shoulders and an increased curve in the upper back, leading to back, shoulder, and neck pain. Try to pack so it weighs no more than 15 to 20% of the bearer’s body weight, and add in the weight of the backpack itself. A canvas backpack will be lighter than a leather one. Also, leave non-essentials at home.

• Buy only wide straps. Narrow straps dig into shoulders and can hinder circulation, causing numbness or tingling in the arms, or weakness in the hands. Also, look for a pack with a waist belt – this helps distribute the weight of the backpack more evenly.

• Reduce the load. Encourage kids to make locker stops throughout the day to avoid carrying all their books at once. Ask your kids to tell you if they are experiencing pain or discomfort before a problem becomes serious.