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by Cara Barone, M.D.
Local health experts understand the impact an overloaded backpack can have on a child or teen – stiff neck, sore shoulders and aching backs. But parents can help prevent these possible pains in a few simple ways.
Encourage your child to use his or her locker whenever possible if one is provided at school. You may also periodically encourage your child or teen to go through his or her backpack and clear out any unused textbooks, binders, papers and other accumulated belongings. This way he or she is not toting unnecessary items back and forth to school. Ask your child to tell you if he or she is experiencing any pain or discomfort from the backpack so you can make sure it is adjusted properly and not too heavy. Talk to your child’s doctor if any pain persists.
When you pick up your child’s backpack, you may well be surprised at just how much it actually weighs. As a general rule, to prevent injury a full backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of his or her body weight.
How a student wears the backpack is often just as important as its overall weight. Make sure the backpack is properly fitted so the weight is distributed evenly across the back and shoulder area. It is definitely not a good idea to wear the backpack hanging from just one shoulder or side of the body as this will cause and aggravate muscle pains.
There is a simple calculation.
Child’s weight x .15 = max backpack weight
This means that, for example:
Keep this calculation at hand as your child grows and gains weight.
When choosing a backpack, follow these tips:
Your child should follow these guidelines:
Cara Barone, M.D., is a board-certified pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Palo Alto Center. Advice is not intended to take the place of an exam or diagnosis by a physician.
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