Unpack That Bag! The Hazards Of An Overloaded Backpack

News from Cioffredi & Associates

According to doctors and physical therapists, backpacks that are overloaded or worn improperly can, over time, cause painful misalignment and harmful compression of the spine. Excessive weight (defined as more than 10-15% of body weight) and unevenly distributed loads can prevent disks from working properly as 'shock absorbers' for vertebrae, and can result in shoulder, neck and back pain. Studies have also confirmed that heavy backpacks can actually alter the shape of a young person's spine.

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Signs of trouble:

  • struggling to get backpack on or off
  • increased forward head pressure, rounded shoulders
  • strained muscles and pain in the shoulder, neck and lower back
  • numbness or tingling caused by the straps
  • headaches

Other dangers. Large, overloaded backpacks create safety hazards in tight spaces (like school buses), where children's movement and balance are impeded, and they can cause tripping hazards. Smaller, lighter backpacks are better all-around choices for school kids.

Wear It Lightly. A backpack should be worn with both shoulder straps to distribute weight evenly, and it should fit close to the body, resting in the middle of the back (not sagging toward the buttocks). It's best to place heavy items closer to the body or at the bottom f the bag, rather than in outside pockets. 

FROM: Cioffredi.com/backpack-safety

Other resources:

Is your child's backpack making the grade?

Backpack Safety (National Safety Council)


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