Parents and kids can’t weight for lesson in backpack safety

With so many choices and fads to follow, back-to-school shopping can be a daunting exercise for kids and parents, too.

With so many choices and fads to follow, back-to-school shopping can be a daunting exercise for kids and parents, too. But unlike trends that come and go our backs stay with us for life. This is why chiropractors are calling on parents and kids to sit up straight and listen closely to sound advice on backpack safety.

In fact, More than 50 per cent of young people experience at least one episode of lower back pain by their teenage years. Research indicates that this could be caused, to a great extent, by improper use of backpacks.

Here are some tips to help your child avoid injury:

• Choose the right backpack:

Forget leather! It looks great, but it’s far too heavy. Go for vinyl or canvas. Pick a pack that has two wide, adjustable, padded shoulder straps, along with a hip or waist strap, padded back and plenty of pockets. Make sure the pack fits properly, is not too snug around the arms and under the armpits, and that its size is proportionate to the wearer’s body.

• Packing it properly:

They’re not moving out! Make sure your children’s packs contain only what is needed for that day, and that the weight is distributed evenly. It’s a good idea to know roughly what each item weighs. The total weight of the filled pack should be no more than 10 to 15 per cent of the wearer’s own body weight.

• Putting the backpack on:

It’s a good idea to help young children with this, at least the first few times. Put the pack on a flat surface, at waist height. Slip on the pack, one shoulder at a time, then adjust the straps to fit comfortably. Remember when lifting a backpack, or anything, to lift using the arms and legs and to bend at the knees.

• The right way to wear a backpack:

Both shoulder straps should be used, and adjusted so that the pack fits snugly to the body, without dangling to the side. Backpacks should never be worn over just one shoulder. You should be able to slide your hand between the backpack and your child’s back. The waist strap should also be worn for added stability.