Things to look for when buying a new backpack

As "Back To School" sales take off, parents may want to consider upgrading their child's backpack and making sure its being worn correctly.

As children are carrying heavy books and supplies around the school all day, consider the consequences of a poor backpack carrying too heavy of a load.

"Backpacks that are worn or used incorrectly can cause injury to the muscles and joints of the neck, shoulders and spine," orthopedic surgeon Paul Shupe, M.D., told Memorial Hermann. "This can lead to pain in these areas as well as changes in posture."

As the problem of backpacks becoming so heavy continues, some have pushed for legislation requiring school districts to limit the weight of backpacks on schoolchildren.

Follow theses tips from the National Safety Council (NSC) when selecting the right backpack:
  • An ergonomic design

  • The correct size: never wider or longer than your child's torso and never hanging more than 4 inches below the waist

  • Padded back and shoulder straps

  • Hip and chest belts to help transfer some of the weight to the hips and torso

  • Multiple compartments to better distribute the weight

  • Compression straps on the sides or bottom to stabilize the contents

  • Reflective material

"Once you've purchased a backpack, watch how your child wears it," said Shupe. "Encourage them to use both shoulder straps and tighten them so that the load is closer to the body."

The NSC also warns about giving a child a roomy backpack because the child is more likely to fill it, and Dr. Shupe warns against ignoring complaints of back pain.

"If your child complains of numbness, tingling, or discomfort in their arms and legs, it may indicate an improper backpack fit or too heavy of a load," said Shupe. "Check how they wear the backpack and encourage them to leave unnecessary books at home or in their locker as much as possible. If they still complain about being in pain, you should consult a physician."
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