Nurse Notes

Backpacks are a great tool to organize the day if used safely. If worn incorrectly, heavy backpacks can be a health hazard. Even though Cornerstone Academy students do not have textbooks to carry, the backpacks are often stuffed with other items that can increase the weight of the backpack. Research shows that half of the students carry backpacks that are too heavy. The way the backpack is carried can also cause health issues.
Dependent on the backpack’s weight, heavy backpacks may cause increased disc compression and lumbar curvature resulting in back pain that can continue into adulthood. Degenerative changes can occur resulting in osteoarthritis. Back packs not properly worn such as slinging the backpack over one shoulder potentially produce postural misalignments and vertebral subluxation which can restrict spinal movement. The heavy backpack or backpack worn incorrectly can affect the student’s gait and posture along with causing discomfort such as neck pain, back pain, headaches, and pinched nerves with possible numbness and tingling in arms. Prevention is worth a pound of cure. What can a parent do?
Buy a safe backpack.
  • The straps should be padded and at least two inches wide.
  • The backpack should not be larger than the child’s back.
  • A waist strap is needed to transfer the weight to waist and hip muscles.
  • The pack needs to be 1-2 inches below the shoulder and not longer than four inches below the waist.
  • Pick a back pack that is light empty. Canvas over leather may be a better choice.
  • Wheels do help to carry heavy loads but are difficult to manage on stairs. Some schools do not allow wheels since it can be a tripping hazard especially in the hallways.
Pack it right and keep it light.
  • The backpack should not weigh more than 15% of the student’s body weight.
  • Heavier items need to be placed close to the center with lighter items on sides or in compartments so that the weight is evenly distributed preventing the child from leaning to one side.
  • Leave non essentials at home or school.
  • If school lockers or desks are available, stash what you don’t need and take only what you do need.
Wear it well.
  • Face the backpack. Bend your knees and not your back when picking up the backpack.
  • Use both shoulders to carry the backpack. Do not carry the backpack on one shoulder.
  • Backpack straps need to be snug so the back pack rests evenly on back and close to the body preventing the backpack from sagging down to the buttock area. However, avoid the straps being too tight that could cause constriction.
  • Don’t for get to fasten the waist strap so the backpack is close to the body.
  • Students wearing a backpack should not bend over at the waist. Use your knees to squat.
  • Take off the backpack when seated.
What can the student do?
  • Plan ahead. Carry only what you need and stash the rest in the locker, desk, or at home. Do you need your personal laptop, video games, extra library books, and other items at school that day?
  • Keep it light. Bring home only what you need for the night or weekend.
  • Use good body mechanics. Bending the knees when picking up the backpack and use both hands when lifting the backpack to the shoulders.

Permanent link to this article: