With kids starting the transition back to in person learning, it might mean that it’s time for new school supplies, like a properly fitting backpack. Kids do a lot of growing in one year and it is important to assure that the backpack that they are stuffing full of books and binders is the right size and weight for their bodies. When choosing a backpack, remembering a few simple rules can reduce the risk of negatively affecting a child’s posture, which can lead to compensations throughout the spine and reduce overall health and function.
When you go back to school shopping, keep these tips in mind:
- The weight of the bag when full should not exceed 10 to 15% percent of the child’s body weight
- The straps should be shortened so that the bag fits snugly against the child’s back
- The bag should be worn with one strap on each shoulder, avoid a one shoulder carry in order to promote even weight distribution and upright posture
- The straps should be padded to not cause discomfort on the shoulders
- If the child tends to lean forward while carrying his or her backpack, it is likely too heavy!
When a child carries a heavy backpack, they will begin to unconsciously lean forward in order to distribute the weight of the bag evenly over their center of gravity. This forward lean will then translate into an upward tilt on the neck in order to see forward. This posture places stress on the spine and nervous system and may result in secondary complaints like headaches, neck pain, back pain, or fatigue, to name a few. But what is even worse, the body begins to form muscle memory so that the child will assume this posture even when he or she is not carrying a heavy bag!
If your child has already been carrying a bag that is too heavy for his or her body, there is no need to panic! They may or may not already be expressing this change in posture, so it is important to have their spine and nervous system checked for primary structural shift. By correcting primary structural shift early in life, we can reduce the possibility of it interfering with normal posture and in turn, normal function.