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Kids & Backpacks: Smart Tips for Spine Safety

Backpacks and their contribution to back pain in children. At the San Diego Center for Spinal Disorders (SDCSD), we sometimes treat children for back and neck pain associated with backpack use. Unfortunately, this is a growing problem. Backpacks that are poorly designed, worn incorrectly, or simply overloaded can cause unnecessary and harmful stress to the entire spine. This is one reason why many children complain of muscle aches and pain in the neck, shoulders, and low back.

Does that mean that your child should not use a backpack? No! A backpack can be a great convenience when you know how to choose the right one for your child and incorporate sound rules about its use.

The tips listed below are provided to help you and your child make smart choices about selecting, packing, lifting, and wearing a backpack.

Considerations When Choosing the Best Backpack

Tips for Loading a Backpack
Plan ahead and stay organized! Determine which books and items are needed for the day. If your child's school has lockers, a lunchtime locker stopover provides an opportunity to replace morning necessities with those needed for the afternoon.

Pack heavier things such as textbooks close to the back. Arrange items so they don't shift during wear. Compression straps will help to keep everything secure.

Be careful about packing scissors, rulers or other sharp objects. Pack sharp objects inside a protective pouch or in such a way to avoid stabbing during wear or when the backpack is reopened (contents may shift during wear!). Lifting a 'Packed' Backpack Your child should be able to lift his or her own backpack without assistance. If not, the backpack is too heavy to wear.

Step 1: Face the backpack

Step 2: Tighten the stomach muscles and bend at the knees (squat)

Step 3: Grip the backpack with both hands

Step 4: Keep the backpack close to the body and lift using the leg muscles Step

Step 5: Do not twist or turn the body while lifting

Step 6: Slip one shoulder strap on at a time

Step 7: Secure the waist strap

How to Wear a Backpack

Note: Each time the backpack is repacked, it may be necessary to readjust the shoulder and waist straps.