According to the calendar, summer has just gotten started. So it’s hard to believe that it is that time of year again for back-to-school talk.

The back-to-school sales are flying off the shelves and it’s time to find the perfect backpack for you or your child. So where do you even begin?

Backpacks come in all sizes, colors, fabrics and shapes, and of course, every child wants that perfect backpack to express their own person style sense. But sometimes personal preference or style can take a toll on your back and shoulders, such as with the messenger/cross-body bags that require more use of one side of the body versus even distribution across the shoulders with the backpack.

Use these tips below to find and use the right backpack for you or your child this school year:

What’s inside the bag?

  • Many things can lead to back pain, such as playing sports, long periods of sitting or poor posture. But some kids have backaches because they are lugging around their entire locker’s worth of books and school supplies all day long. Physical therapists recommend kids carry no more than 10 to 15 percent of their bodyweight in their backpacks.
  • When a heavy backpack is incorrectly placed on the shoulders, the weight's force can pull a child backward. To compensate, the child might bend forward at the hips or arch the back. This can make the spine compress unnaturally, leading to shoulder, neck and back pain.

Finding the right bag

  • Look for a backpack that is lightweight and doesn’t add a lot of weight to you or your child’s load.
  • Ensure shoulder straps are wide and padded to avoid digging into the shoulders.
  • Look for a backpack with a padded back to provide increased comfort.
  • Look for multiple compartments to help distribute the weight throughout the backpack.

How to use it wisely to avoid injury

  • Lighten the load: No matter how well-designed the backpack, less weight is always better. Use the bathroom scale to check that a pack isn't over 10 to 15 percent of your child's bodyweight (for example, the backpack of a child who weighs 80 pounds shouldn't weigh more than 8 to 12 pounds).
  • Use and pick up the backpack properly: Make sure kids use both shoulder straps. Bags that are slung over the shoulder or across the chest — or that only have one strap — aren't as effective at distributing the weight as bags with two, wide shoulder straps, and therefore may strain muscles. Also tighten the straps enough for the backpack to fit closely to the body. The pack should rest evenly in the middle of the back and not sag down to the buttocks.

Final tips:

  • Encourage kids to use their locker or desk often throughout the day instead of carrying the entire day’s worth of books in their backpack.
  • Make sure they don’t tote unnecessary items such as laptops or tablets which can add extra pounds.
  • Encourage kids to bring home only the books needed for homework or studying each night.

Picking up the backpack the right way can help kids avoid back injuries as well. As with any heavy weight, they should bend at the knees and grab the pack with both hands while lifting the bag to the shoulders.

If your child ever complains of back pain, numbness or weakness in the arms or legs be sure to talk to your doctor or a physical therapist right away for more guidance and a solution to the problem.

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