Using backpacks properly

Purchase a backpack at a hiking or camping store where the knowledgeable sales staff can help determine the correct size.

Today almost all children own and carry a backpack and, unfortunately, put way too much weight in it, which can cause injuries to their bodies.

• Choose the right size. Many young students wear adult-sized backpacks. Purchase a backpack at a hiking or camping store where the knowledgeable sales staff can help determine the correct size.

• Check for back-friendly features. Some backpack manufacturers have included back-friendly features like wheels and luggage pulls, as well as waist straps, so the user has the option of carrying the backpack or pulling it. Choose a backpack with wide straps, as narrow straps can dig into shoulders and hinder circulation, causing numbness or tingling in the arms and the hands.

• Wear both straps. Users who sling their backpacks over one shoulder run the risk of curving the spine over time. In addition to lower and upper back pain, some backpack users could develop scoliosis. Wearing both straps helps to distribute the weight evenly across the back.

• Pack lightly. A good rule to follow is to carry no more than 10 to 15 percent of one’s body weight. Many 60- to 70-pound students carry upwards of 25 pounds on their backs.

• Unload non-essentials. Young students should make frequent stops at lockers and cubbies to unload unnecessary items or, better yet, leave them at home. College students should make an effort to carry only the necessary books around campus.

• Pay attention to pain or discomfort. Any type of pain or discomfort is an indication that the backpack is not being used properly. If pain persists, see your physician.

 

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 4, August/September 2006.

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