With the upcoming sales tax holiday, parents may be considering the purchase of a new backpack for their child. Whether your child will be carrying books or a tablet computer to school, there are some important things to remember when making that very important backpack purchase.
“Backpacks that are worn or used incorrectly can cause injury to the muscles and joints of the neck, shoulders and spine. This can lead to pain in these areas as well as changes in posture,” says Paul Shupe, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute-Memorial City and Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.
The National Safety Council offers these tips for selecting the right backpack.
- The backpack should be no wider than the torso.
- Make sure it includes padding in the shoulder straps and back of the backpack.
- Check for chest/waist belts. They help transfer weight to the chest and hips, instead of solely relying on the back.
- Includes multiple compartments to better distribute weight.
“Once you’ve purchased a backpack, watch how your child wears it. Encourage them to use both shoulder straps and tighten them so that the load is closer to the body,” recommends Dr. Shupe.
Some school districts offer digital textbooks or require students to keep backpacks in their lockers, which should keep kids from carrying heavy backpacks for extended periods of time. For students who do carry their backpacks throughout the day, Dr. Shupe warns against ignoring complaints of back pain.
“If your child complains of numbness, tingling, or discomfort in their arms and legs, it may indicate an improper backpack fit or too heavy of a load. Check how they wear the backpack and encourage them to leave unnecessary books at home or in their locker as much as possible. If they still complain about being in pain, you should consult a physician,” advises Dr. Shupe.
The Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute-Memorial City is staffed by physical therapists and affiliated sports medicine fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons who specialize in treating injuries of the foot, ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, elbow and hand. You can schedule an appointment by calling (713)486-1700 or through ScheduleNow.