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Backpack Safety and Ergonomics

National School Backpack Awareness Day, September 15, strives to make sure students wear backpacks safely. Improper use can lead to back pain or injury, which can impact learning. On this day, teachers, students, and parents come together to make sure families are aware of the risks of backpacks and can be sure backpacks are being worn properly. 

Here are some tips below to keep in mind:

  • Use both straps.
    Slinging your backpack on one shoulder can lead to ​bad posture, injury or pain.
  • ​Adjust the height.
    Backpacks should be worn high on your back, sitting an inch or two above your hips. ​
  • ​Use the waist and chest straps.
    ​The horizontal straps help distribute the weight and keep your load stable as you move.

WHY NATIONAL SCHOOL BACKPACK AWARENESS DAY IS IMPORTANT

  • It keeps students safe.
    Backpacks worn incorrectly can lead to pain or injury. That's why it's so important to check the weight and use them properly.
  • It brings the community together.
    National Backpack Awareness Day brings everyone together to learn about backpack safety. It's an opportunity to reach out to parents, caretakers, and students.
  • It helps kids.
    Not only is this a chance to highlight backpack safety, but it's also a chance for the community to learn about the challenges their students are facing as they carry heavier packs, loaded with books and school supplies. 

People with back pain, raise your hands!

If you were reading this out loud in a crowded room, you’d see a lot of hands.

How about this: People with giant, heavy backpacks, raise your hands!

Is it a coincidence that, again, you’d see a sea of hands? Not at all. Wearing a heavy backpack over time leads to serious chronic back pain and injury. Even carrying a heavy bag around for a short period of time can cause significant health problems.

In fact, back-related injuries sent over 2,000 students to hospitals and emergency rooms in just one year, and 85 percent of university students self-report pain and strain in their necks, backs, and shoulders.

National Backpack Awareness Day is an opportunity to talk about this common issue. It’s relevant to all students, but especially highlights the importance of physical therapists, who often help patients recover from these injuries and other activities of daily living.

With more than 79 million U.S. students wearing backpacks at any given time, the potential for injury is huge. The good news is that the problem can be easily solved with awareness and a few recommendations:

  • A loaded backpack should not weigh more than 10 percent of the student’s total body weight.
  • The backpack should extend from two inches below the shoulder blades to slightly above the waist.
  • Students should wear the backpack on both shoulders for even weight distribution.

Let’s face it: You wouldn’t haul around a heavy backpack if you didn’t have to, and all that stuff has to go somewhere. Remember this four-step process to save you a lot of pain:

1. Select the right backpack

You’re probably used to picking a backpack based on how it looks, right? You like the color and all the little pockets. But you'll want to remember the following safety features as well.

  • Comfortable straps. Wide, padded, contoured straps are best for comfort. A waist strap can redistribute the weight from the neck and shoulders to the waist and hips.
  • Zipper pulls. Zipper pulls make it easier to find and unzip the zipper, which is useful when you’re in a rush.
  • Reflective strips. These add visibility, a safety plus, especially on short winter days.
  • Location matters. The place where the straps meet the pack should rest one or two inches below the top of the shoulders. The bottom of the backpack should rest in the curve of the lower back, but not more than four inches below the waist.

2. Pack it

The way you pack a backpack can distribute the weight so that your whole back bears the burden evenly. Heavier items like textbooks and binders should be stowed closest to the back and center. Lighter things like a lunchbox should go in the front, facing away from the body. Sharp items like pencils and pens should go on the sides of the backpack — away from the back!

3. Put it on

Pick up your backpack like you would pick up other heavy things, by bending and lifting at the knees. Do not bend over and lift with your back.

4. Adjust and carry

Adjust the backpack while you’re wearing it. Adjust the shoulder straps so that the top of the backpack is even with your shoulders; the bottom should not extend beyond the top of your hip bones. Secure the hip belt and the sternum belt (if there is one). The backpack should rest snugly against your back. And remember: It should not weigh more than 10 percent of your body weight.

At Judice Sports & Rehab we care about YOU. Please reach out of you are dealing with back pain or just have a common concern or injury. We can help. By phone at 636-686-0503 or email contact@stlouispt.com

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