Backpacks are very handy, but when used incorrectly, they can pose threats to people especially to children with fragile bodies as a result of heavy weight, uneven weight and even improper positioning of the backpacks. Backpacks are very useful for children with their compartments and can easily be carried on the back sparing the hands. Backpacks are also relatively better to use than messenger bags and shoulder bags because they distribute the weight evenly; however, when backpacks contain more than the body can carry and if they are used without regards to proper ergonomics, they can cause musculoskeletal injuries to children such as:
- Poor balance
The number of books and other items in backpacks may cause instability to the small body frames of kids. The heavy weight usually pulls a child’s body backwards making them stumble when they are unable to control the weight effectively.
- Muscle strains
The muscles are the first structures that become exposed to the harmful effects of heavy weight on the back especially the muscles on the shoulders and upper back. When children carry heavy loads, they usually complain of muscle aches on the area and may sometimes become tight or spastic.
- Shoulder and neck injuries
When backpacks are used continuously, despite muscle aches, the shoulders and neck may be injured in the long run contributing to poor posture in children. Carrying loads for prolonged periods may eventually lead to a kyphotic or hunchback posture in children, which may restrict the normal development of the spine. Also, some children may counteract the force of the weight on their backs by bending at their hips to make them more stable. This can further affect their overall posture and may contribute to poor body alignment. Nerve and circulation affectation on the neck and shoulders may also happen when backpacks with narrow straps are used.
Truly enough, backpacks can pose risks to kids; nevertheless, backpacks can be very helpful to children when it comes to carrying things. In this line, it is then important to make backpacks more ergonomically safe through the following tips:
- Purchase lightweight backpacks. Most backpacks look very cool for children, but they can also weigh more than regular ones. Look for style and designs that have lightweight properties. Also, consider getting packs with padded backs to prevent tension on the back muscles.
- Choose packs with padded and wide straps. The straps should be wide enough to prevent nerve compressions in the area. It is recommended to have at least 2 inches straps.
- Get packs with waist belts. Waist belts help distribute the weight of the bag evenly on the body of the child.
Also, you may want to reduce the weight of the contents to at most 10% of the child’s weight. This ensures that the child won’t be carrying more weight than what the body can safely carry. Moreover, the straps should be adjusted so that the lower edge of the backpack is just in line with the upper third of the buttocks. This prevents the bag from pulling the child’s body backward.
Indeed, backpacks can be useful, but make sure to employ safety precautions to avoid creating harmful effects to children, and if some damage has already been done, seek help and advice from your local Lutz chiropractor.