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Backpack safety tips for back-to-school shopping

OPINION

It’s almost time for school to start. It’s hard to believe the summer is almost over. Many parents are starting to shop for school clothes and a new backpack. From a physical health standpoint, purchasing an appropriate backpack and wearing it the proper way can have a major impact on the muscles and joints of a child’s shoulders, neck and back.

Here are some tips when purchasing a backpack to make sure it fits your child properly, especially if your child will be carrying heavy books:

Wear Both Straps

Use of one strap causes one side of the body to bear the weight of the backpack. By wearing two shoulder straps, the weight of the backpack is better distributed.

Wear the backpack over the strongest mid-back muscles

Pay close attention to the way the backpack is positioned on the back. It should rest evenly in the middle of the back. Shoulder straps should be adjusted to allow the child to put on and take off the backpack without difficulty and allow free movement of the arms. Straps should not be too loose, and the backpack should not extend below the low back.

Lighten the load

Keep the load at 10 to 15 percent or less of the child’s body weight. Carry only items that are required for the day. Organize the contents of the backpack by placing the heaviest items closest to the child’s back. Some students have two sets of books, so as not to have to carry the heaviest books to and from school.

How a Physical Therapist Can Help

A physical therapist can help you choose a proper backpack and fit it specifically to your child. Children come in all shapes and sizes, and some have physical limitations that require special adaptations.

Additionally, a physical therapist can help improve posture problems, correct muscle imbalances and treat pain that can result from improper backpack use. Physical therapists can also design individualized fitness programs to help children get strong and stay strong — and carry their own loads!

Shelly Kraetz is a certified physical therapist and the owner of Kraetz Physical Therapy in Skaneateles. Kraetzpt.com.

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