Summer is almost over and that means it’s time for back-to-school shopping. But when you hit the store for that new backpack, you need to look for function over fashion.
"So what happens if a kid is carrying the wrong backpack or if it’s too heavy for them is they will go into this sort of forward shoulder, forward head posturing, and then they'll get neck pain and they can get mid-back and low-back pain, and then they can have this poor posture which is going to cause shoulder issues," said physical therapist Karena Wu.
Wu is a physical therapist who says all too often she sees kids lugging backpacks that are bad for the body. We asked her to help highlight the do's and don’t of backpack shopping. First off, look for quality shoulder straps. Try to avoid straps that are simple and straight with little padding.
"This is a great example of fantastic shoulder straps because they are wide, they are contoured to the body and they are well ventilated. And then they have the additional waist straps that can help disperse the load," she said.
The more pockets the better. This helps distribute the weight inside the bag evenly. Also look for bags that have lightweight, breathable fabrics and padding on the back, so nothing can poke through as the contents get jostled around.
As for size, look for one that is proportional to the person. You don’t want one that is too big and pulls the child down.
Now aside from good construction and a good fit, how you wear the bag makes a difference. If you are not wearing it properly, you definitely won’t get the support you need.
"So this is an example of not wearing the backpack correctly. So if he turns, you see how low this is hanging? It's putting a lot of force down and backwards and compressing his spine. So really a backpack should be carried up around the trunk so that it minimizes the forces that get carried down in the spine," said Wu.
And of course it shouldn’t be overloaded. She says a person should not carry more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight in their pack.
So when you hit the store, no matter how much your child wants the character themed or trendy design, make sure you stay focused on form and function, so carrying books home doesn’t have to be a pain in the neck.