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Proper Backpack Use: PACK IT LIGHT, WEAR IT RIGHT!

February 21, 2012 by Marc Faktor, Certified Exercise Physiologist

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Proper backpack use is often taken for granted and the effects of this could be drastic on our growing children and youth.

The body is a very sensitive and complex organism that adapts to the stressors we place on it. If we continually place undue and uneven stress on one of the most important parts of our body, the spinal column, we could end up in trouble later on in life! Examples of poor backpack use can include but are not limited to: muscle strain, headaches, back, neck and arm pain, improper growth and development and even nerve damage.

This being said, it's imperative that we understand how to properly use backpacks in a way that they don't place negative and uneven stress on our spine in an attempt to promote healthy growth and development!

Here are some great tips from the BC Chiropractic Association Backpack Safety Program, PACK IT LIGHT, WEAR IT RIGHT! that will help your family with proper backpack use:

  • Lighten up your backpack by ensuring you only have the essentials for the day. Things like shoes, old lunch boxes, old clothes and books for other courses don't need to be carried around endlessly throughout the week.
  • If you're carrying more than 15% of your body weight then you need to, lighten your load! For young and small children 10% of their body weight should be the upper limit!
  • Carry the heaviest items closest to the body! If you have a waist strap, USE IT!
  • Choose a backpack that has lots of pockets and areas to store things as this will make the load seem lighter.
  • When loading your backpack, do it on a table or a ledge that is at least waist height.
  • When putting your backpack on, keep it on the table and place BOTH straps on one at a time. Using both straps is essential to evenly distribute the weight being carried. Uneven weight distribution could lead to unwanted curvatures and abnormalities in the developing spine and musculature, respectively.

This all being said,


References and Resources:
BC Chiropractic Association Backpack Safety Program
Pack it Light handout for Children
Pack it Light brochure for Parents

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