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Carrying a backpack properly now can prevent future pain for kids


When it comes to physical health in a school environment, a parent’s first thought might have to do with P.E. or exercising.

This is an important factor to consider. But even something as small as the way a child carries their backpack can be important to their overall health.

Megan Stankowski, PT, DPT, LAT, Physical Therapist, and Athletic Trainer with Aspirus addresses this exact topic.

“Improper backpack usage among children can lead to neck pain, headaches, back pain and hip pain,” she said.

Stankowski discusses the proper way for a child to carry a backpack to prevent these injuries.

“A backpack should be positioned on a child’s back with both straps used around the shoulders, the backpack should be at the hips and no lower, and the shoulders (straps) should be snug tight so the backpack is not swaying side to side,” said Stankowski.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America offers some tips for parents to help children wear their backpacks safely and correctly.

One, Choose the right backpack. Your child’s backpack should have two padded shoulder straps, a padded back, a waist or chest strap, and compartments. These features help distribute the weight of the contents more evenly throughout the body.

Two, educate your child about proper backpack wear. Keep straps on both shoulders and use the waist strap. Adjust straps to fit snugly.

Three, pack safely. Help your child understand how to distribute the weight properly. Put the heaviest items low and near the center of the back. Make sure the bottom of the backpack rests in the curve of the lower back.

Four, check the weight. Make sure your child is not carrying more than 15 percent of his or her body weight in their backpack. If you notice them leaning forward to support the backpack’s weight, then it’s too heavy.

Five, lighten the load. Encourage your child to clean the backpack weekly and take out unneeded items. Store items in a locker at school when possible and take only what’s needed to school. Carrying heavier items in their arms will also alleviate some of that extra weight.

Megan Stankowski also warns that children are not likely to attribute these pains to their backpack so she recommends parents and guardians be vigilant in observing how their child is wearing their backpack as well as asking the child how their backpack feels so they might make the correlation and address any issues they might be having.

Student Storytellers is an initiative to amplify youth voices. Sydney Kuckkan is a local high school student who has been working with WXPR this summer to learn more about the journalism field