Colin Goggins, MD, is a fellowship-trained physician specializing in pediatric orthopedics at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa.
Question. It seems as the school year goes on my daughter’s backpack gets heavier and heavier with books and folders from all her classes. What can be done to prevent her from injuring her back?
Answer: It is good that your paying attention as the school year goes on. Now that the freshness of having a new backpack for school has worn off, make sure the backpack she chose at the beginning of the year is one that is durable.
When starting the school year, often children choose a backpack based on looks and not something that will hold up when they have 10 books to carry home later on.
Make sure your daughter’s backpack is well-padded in the back and shoulders along with wide shoulder straps. If the backpack is still heavy you can opt for a waist strap which will help shift and alleviate some of the weight. Also, watch when she’s leaving the house and remind her to use both straps and the waist strap if necessary. Often children will shift the bag to carry on one shoulder, forcing all the weight to settle on one side. It is also a good idea to make sure the items in the backpack are truly needed. Sit down with your daughter and make a list of what can be left at school and what has to come home. Your daughter will putt less strain on her neck, shoulders and back by leaving the extra items out of her backpack.
Another good idea is to teach your daughter how to load her backpack properly so the books are organized and do not shift and move around as she carries them. Position the books so the heaviest items rest against her back instead of falling forward which can cause the weight to put strain on her back.
Finally, exercise is very important, especially for children who must lift these heavy backpacks everyday. If you child engages in exercise and is physically fit this will aide her in carrying her belongings to and from school each day. If the backpack proves to still be too heavy, consider purchasing a backpack with wheels or a second set of books to be used at home.