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Backpack Tips for Back to School

Child wearing backpackWell, the fall is near and that means the kids are back in school (although it all looks a little different this year). They’ll go back armed and equipped with pencils and binders and possibly a computer. But are they going back equipped to handle the load of carrying all that stuff?

Here are some tips for choosing the right backpack for your back-to-school child; one that will hold a fair amount of stuff but won’t cause spinal problems from being improperly fit or overloaded.

Selecting a backpack for your child

1. Smaller: a properly fitting pack will probably be smaller than you thought it would be. With the volume of school supplies and homework given these days most children using a properly fitted pack will not be able to carry everything (see the 4 B’s below). A separate hand-held lunch pack may be necessary.

2. Loading: take a few books for weight when you shop for a backpack. A loaded backpack will fit differently than one that is empty.

3. Straps: With weight in a backpack you should be able to snug the straps so that the pack presses against the mid-back and the straps sit on the shoulders. If the straps are too short to snug this way the pack is probably too big. See Torso Length for further fitting details

4. Torso length: with the straps adjusted snugly there should be no gap between the top of the strap and the shoulders. If there is a gap the pack is riding up too high and will cause neck strain and discomfort. Try a smaller pack. Also, if the pack extends more than an inch below the beltline (onto the buttock) the pack is too long and will cause rubbing and pain in the lower back.

5. Sources: Mountain Equipment Coop ( has a wide range of packs and sizes. This is a good place to start but in order to get something with Batman on it you’ll need to go elsewhere. Be prepared to invest a little time finding the best fitting pack that also gets the “that’s cool Mom!” response. Your child’s health is worth a couple of extra hours.

The 4 B’s of Backpack Use

1. Body weight: a backpack should carry no more than 20% of the child’s body weight and less than 15% for younger children (up to Grade 3) or if your child is small for their age.

2. Balanced loading: be sure the weight is evenly distributed right to left and put heavier items on the bottom.

3. Bracing with straps: the straps will need to be adjusted frequently unless your child carries a similar load packed the same way each day.

4. Bilateral carrying: encourage your child to use both straps when with their pack but since that might be too uncool an alternative is for them to alternate hanging the pack on the left and right shoulder.

Posture and your child’s health

Many health problems in adults begin with postural decay in childhood. Carrying an overloaded bag on the same shoulder over and over can distort the spine and cause problems with the nervous system, immune system and overall health.

Your brain coordinates and controls every part of your body by constantly sending a signal through the spinal cord to your organs and parts. Distorted and unbalanced posture is an indication the spine is degenerating and putting choking pressure on the nerves and spinal cord which makes this brain-to-body signal weaken. Your child’s immune system cannot work fully if the nerves that control it are weakened by postural decay. Same with all of the other parts of the body.

An overloaded and improperly fit pack or one that is carried on one shoulder will twist and distort the spine at it’s most vulnerable stage – the developmental years of childhood.

Book a check up for your whole family by calling Cindy at 403-217-3002.

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