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Minimizing the Pain of 'Back to School'

Backpacks can cause injuries; here are some safety tips

THURSDAY, Aug. 8, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Shoulder problems, neck pain or lower back stress are among the injuries your children may suffer if they carry backpacks that are too heavy with school books or other items.

John Horn, associate director for facility management at the University of Arkansas' Intramural and Recreational Sports Program, offers some suggestions to help children avoid backpack-related injuries and problems:

  • There are two kinds of backpacks -- internal and external frame. Many students carry their books and other school supplies in internal frame backpacks, which are designed to place most of the weight on the hips. External frame backpacks distribute the weight higher in the body, on the shoulders. External frame backpacks aren't intended to be used as school backpacks.
  • Wear the backpack properly. It should be a tight fit. There should be no more than an arm's width between the pack and the student's back. If the backpack is too loose, it can bounce up and down against the student's body. That increases the risk of pain and injury.
  • Many backpacks have chest and waist straps along with the two shoulder straps. You should use all of them.
  • Buy a good quality backpack. Spend a bit more money to get a pack with cushioned shoulder straps and cushioning on the back. This will add more protection for the back and shoulders. Research backpacks by checking consumer reports.
  • Watch your child wear the backpack. If your child is leaning forward or to one side, then the backpack isn't being worn properly. Make the necessary adjustments. Your child should be able to stand up straight when they're wearing the backpack.

If these suggestions don't work and your child still has pain when wearing a backpack, Horn suggests using handheld bags or luggage-style backpacks that have wheels and can be pulled with a handle.

More Information

A fact sheet on backpacks in PDF format is available through the American Academy of Pediatrics.

SOURCE: University of Arkansas, news release, August 2002
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