Students across Michigan will be hitting the books in a just a few weeks, but it is important to make sure those all those books are being carried properly. Experts with the Kohl's Injury Prevention Program at DMC Children's Hospital offer these tips to make sure kids don't start out the school year with a back injury.
Choose the right backpack.
-Wide, padded shoulder straps - Narrow straps can dig into shoulders. This can cause pain and restrict circulation.
-Two shoulder straps - Backpacks with one shoulder strap that runs across the body cannot distribute weight evenly.
-Padded back - A padded back protects against sharp edges on objects inside the pack and increases comfort.
-Waist strap - A waist strap can distribute the weight of a heavy load more evenly.
-Lightweight backpack - The backpack itself should not add much weight to the load.
-Rolling backpack - This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs. They may be difficult to roll in snow.
To prevent injury when using a backpack:
-Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles. Wearing a backpack on one shoulder may increase curvature of the spine.
-Tighten the straps so that the pack is close to the body. The straps should hold the pack two inches above the waist.
-Pack light. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student's total body weight (depending on age).
-Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.
-Stop often at school lockers, if possible. Do not carry all of the books needed for the day.
-Bend using both knees, when you bend down. Do not bend over at the waist when wearing or lifting a heavy backpack.
-Learn back-strengthening exercises to build up the muscles used to carry a backpack.
-Ask your pediatrician for advice.