Three tips for backpack safety

(ProActive Sports Rehab offers a weekly column promoting health, fitness and physical therapy. Please be sure to check back each week for a new topic!)

Now that the kids have been back to school for a month, is your son or daughter complaining of back or shoulder pain? If so, their backpack could be the cause.

A physical therapist can help you choose a proper backpack and fit it specifically to your child. Children come in all shapes and sizes, and some have physical limitations that require special adaptations.

Additionally, a physical therapist can help improve posture problems, correct muscle imbalances and treat pain that can result from improper backpack use. Physical therapists can also design individualized fitness programs to help children get strong and stay strong—and carry their own loads.

Following are three tips for backpack safety:

Wear both straps
Use of one strap causes one side of the body to bear the weight of the backpack. By wearing two shoulder straps, the weight of the backpack is better distributed.

Wear the backpack over the strongest mid-back muscles
Pay close attention to the way the backpack is positioned on the back. It should rest evenly in the middle of the back. Shoulder straps should be adjusted to allow the child to put on and take off the backpack without difficulty and allow free movement of the arms. Straps should not be too loose, and the backpack should not extend below the low back.

Lighten the load
Keep the load at 10 to 15 percent or less of the child’s bodyweight. Carry only those items that are required for the day. Organize the contents of the backpack by placing the heaviest items closest to the back. Some students have two sets of books so as not to have to carry the heavy books to and from school.

ProActive Sports Rehab, with offices in Hamburg and West Seneca, offers one-on-one physical therapy and rehabilitation services. For more information, please visit http://proactivesportsrehab.com or call 674-9600 (West Seneca office) or 648-8700 (Hamburg office). You can also follow ProActive Sports Rehab on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ProActiveSportsRehab for frequent updates.

— American Physical Therapy Association

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