Friday, August 08, 2008

Easing the backpack burden

Tips for reducing backpack strain ...

"Pencils, textbooks, calculators, binders ... it’s about time for school to start again.

One thing that might be overlooked by parents when sending their children off to school is how their child is carrying his or her supplies and textbooks. Nationally, more than 7,000 emergency room visits in 2001 were related to backpacks. Approximately half of those injuries occurred in children ages 5 to 14.

As occupational therapists, one of our roles includes helping children in areas such as ergonomics, handwriting skills, and with developmental and behavioral problems so they can participate more fully in the “occupation” of living. We help children improve skills to better perform daily tasks at home, at school and at play. One of the daily tasks of a child is to attend school and carry supplies with them in a backpack.

Our association, the American Occupational Therapy Association, has formulated the following tips to avoid backpack-related health problems:

10 tips for wearing a backpack

1. Never let a child carry more than 15% of his or her body weight.

For instance, if a child weighs 100 pounds, they should not wear a backpack heavier than 15 pounds. If their backpack is too heavy, have them hand carry one or two textbooks. Also encourage them to take make more trips to their lockers to exchange their textbooks, notebooks and binders.

2. Have heavier items closest to their back.

3. Wear both shoulder straps to avoid leaning to one side and curving the spine causing pain and discomfort.

4. Have well-padded shoulder straps. Too much pressure on the shoulders can cause pain, numbness and tingling.

5. Position the bottom of the backpack no more than 4 inches below the child’s waistline."    (Continued via The Black Hills Pioneer, Kim Anderson)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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