When I was younger and attending school, like all of my friends, I remember slogging around a backpack filled with books to and from my classes.

I was, however, a bit of an anomaly amongst my peers in that I actually wore my pack with both straps over my shoulders.

Sure, my friends were quick to inform me of the social implications that my actions would have on my image, but even to this day, I like the hands free backpack method. I don't like having to think about what I'm carrying.

Health Consequences

Unbeknownst to me at the time, my failure to be stylish was actually a prescient decision in terms of my physical health. That is because improper use of a backpack can have some fairly significant health consequences.

These include undue strain and potential muscle damage in the back, neck, and shoulders. In certain instances, extremely heavy packs can impede circulation and press on the nerves, as well as cause compression on the spine.

For students who embrace style and cool, wearing a heavy pack on one shoulder can have long-term consequences on their posture.

A Heavier Burden

The problem is aggravated by the competitive arena of modern academics: kids are being given heavier course loads and as a consequence, more books.

A greater number of extracurriculars also forces them to bear the burden of having longer hours of activity on any given day.

Naturally, this increases their chances for an injury.

Proper Backpack Usage

Fortunately, many of these injuries are not permanent. They can be alleviated and hopefully avoided altogether by encouraging your kids to take into account a few pieces of common-sense advice:

1. Choose the Right Backpack

Keep in mind that bigger is not necessarily better. Style and technology have come together in the field of backpacks, and choosing the right size and shape can make a big difference. Experts recommend that a backpack should weigh no more than 20% of the child's body weight.

2. Make Sure the Straps Are Padded

Unpadded straps can dig into a child's shoulders, increasing discomfort and pain. When adjusting the straps, make sure the pack does not hang too low, which can increase the strain.

3. Encourage Your Kids to Use Both Shoulders

Wearing a pack on one shoulder increases the strain on one side of the body and can lead to back, neck, and shoulder strain.

4. Distribute the Weight Evenly

When carrying books and other school items, try to pack them evenly in the backpack. Even placement will result in better balance and a more comfortable backpack.

5. Consider a Backpack on Wheels

As extreme as it may seem, some circumstances have reached the point where a child is simply better off transporting their school supplies on wheels rather than bearing the burden on their shoulders.

6. Talk to Their Teachers

If the situation has gotten so bad that you as a parent must get involved, then do so. A straightforward solution is often attainable with just a little effort and intervention.

Going back to school is an exciting and anxious time, and in order to make the most of their academic experience, it is important to make sure that your kids are healthy and injury-free. Some practical and common sense backpack tips will go a long way to ensuring this.

If you have questions or concerns, speak with your pediatrician. For more information about backpack safety, visit the website for Kid's Health.

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