Heavy backpacks: Avoid oversized loads, prevent back problems

Morgan Kennedy photo

By Morgan Kennedy

Independent Editor

By monitoring their backpacks’ weights, wearing them correctly, and taking advantage of lockers, students can alleviate the stress and strain of constantly carrying a bag full of books.

Senior Jared LaFontaine said he often finds his backpack too heavy to lug around.

“The stairs are hard enough, and carrying an extra 20 pounds on my back definitely doesn’t make them any easier,” he said.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a student’s backpack should never be heavier than 10-20 percent of his or her body weight.

In a school where the majority of backpacks are over 20 pounds, nurse Cindi Aldrich suggests using the four minutes between classes to drop some books in a locker.

“They may not be able to change what they have to take home, but in school, students could go to their lockers more often and avoid carrying around so many books. That is what the lockers are for, so kids should be taking advantage of them,” she said.

Constantly carrying a heavy backpack can cause muscle spasms and back pain; however, the real problem lies in the way students are holding them, according to Aldrich.

“Whether it’s full of books or not, if you’re not carrying it correctly, it will create strain,” she said.

According to Aldrich, backpacks are meant to be worn in the middle and top area of the back. Students tend to wear them much lower, which may result in low back pain.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said, “always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.”

Contrary to common belief, scoliosis is a genetic disorder and therefore cannot arise from backpack use; however, the body can be thrown out of alignment by incorrect wear, according to Aldrich.

“Wearing it on one shoulder can distort posture and hip alignment. It’s much safer to evenly distribute the weight between both shoulders,” she said.