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Don’t forget the “back” when it comes to back to school

By Griffin Hospital on 8/20/2015

by Christian Meagher. The start of the new school year is drawing near (if it hasn’t come already!) and many of us are checking the school supplies list to make sure the students in our lives will be ready when the bell rings.

Amid all the trips to the store to get the right pencils, pens, rulers and uniforms, we sometimes forget to focus on a back to school necessity that can cause harm if it’s not the correct size, shape or if it’s used improperly.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, thousands of backpack-related injuries are treated every year. Having the wrong backpack or wearing it incorrectly can injure a person’s back, neck and shoulders, affecting not only a student’s health, but also his or her ability to learn.

Pack light, wear it right

Griffin Hospital’s Rehabilitation Services is spreading the word on backpack safety and urging parents and students alike to follow the advice of the American Occupational Therapy Association.

Many common backpack injuries can be avoided by following these 8 tips:

  1. A backpack should weigh no more than about 10% of the student’s body weight (for example - a student weighing 100 pounds shouldn’t wear a loaded school backpack heavier than about 10 pounds).

  2. Load heaviest items closest to the student’s back and arrange books and materials so they won’t slide around in the backpack.

  3. If the backpack is too heavy or tightly packed, have the student carry a book or other item outside the pack.

  4. Students should not wear their pack slung over one shoulder as this can cause him or her to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort. Use both shoulder straps to distribute weight evenly.

  5. Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly on the student’s back. A pack that hangs loosely from the back can pull the student backwards and strain muscles.

  6. Wear the waist belt if the backpack has one to help distribute the pack’s weight more evenly.

  7. The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than four inches below the student’s waistline.

  8. Look for a pack with well-padded shoulder straps. Too much pressure on the blood vessels and nerves in the shoulders and neck can cause pain and tingling in the neck, arms, and hands.

Learn more

Click Griffin hospital's Health Buzz video below.  Hear and view more information about backpack safety from Myra Odenwaelder, DPT, director of Rehabilitation Services Department Griffin Hospital, and see a demonstration of how to properly adjust a backpack.

Call us for a consultation.  If you are experiencing any pain caused by a backpack, muscle strain or injury, visit Griffin Hospital’s Outpatient Rehabilitation & Physical Therapy webpage or call (203) 732-7445 to learn about our physical therapy services.

We wish everyone a safe, healthy and productive school year!

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