September 13, 2011
Shaheda Quraishi, MD
Most backpacks have two straps--one over each shoulder. This design is the most ergonomic compared to a single-strap design. Two straps allow the weight of the backpack to be evenly distributed over each side, thus reducing the load on each individual shoulder. Bags with only one strap cause disproportionate amounts of weight on one side, resulting in abnormalities in posture.
The amount of weight within the backpack is the most important factor. If there are textbooks that can be left at home or are not needed daily, leave them out. Furthermore, maintaining correct posture is critical to allowing the body to successfully bear the weight of the backpack. The majority of the weight is felt by the lower back and therefore, it is a common site of problems.
To protect your child from injury due to a heavy backpack:
- Use the traditional two-strap design backpack. Another option is the luggage-style backpack that has wheels and can be rolled along the ground.
- Carry the minimum amount of books and papers needed at one time. One trick is to use smaller binders and remove pages at the end of the semester, rather than carry around a year’s worth of notes.
- Encourage your child to maintain proper posture and encourage stretching/strengthening exercises to maintain back strength.