It’s August and that means many kids are getting ready to head back to school. Whether you’re sending a little off to Kindergarten or a teenager to high school they will all, more than likely, have one thing in common: backpacks!

Backpacks are great way to carry all of your belongings easily and there are so many designs to choose from these days. But backpacks also have their shortcomings. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission over 5,000 of the 14,000 Americans that sought medical treatment for backpack injuries in 2014 were children. Many children carry backpacks that are too large and heavy for their size or carry them only on one shoulder causing uneven weight distribution. Any of these factors can lead to back, neck and shoulder injuries.

The American Chiropractic Association offers these tips to help prevent injury from backpack use:

  • Make sure your child’s backpack weighs no more than 5-10% of his or her body weight. A heavier backpack will cause your child to bend forward in order to support the weight.
  • The backpack should never hang more than four inches below the waistline. This increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward.
  • A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning the contents most effectively. Place heavier items closer to the body.
  • Bigger is not necessarily better. The more room there is in a backpack the more children will try to carry and the heavier the backpack will be.
  • Urge your child to wear both shoulder straps. Carrying by one strap can cause the uneven distribution of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as low-back pain.
  • Wide padded straps are very important to prevent the straps from digging into your child’s shoulders.
  • Adjustable shoulder straps help fit the backpack to your child’s body preventing the backpack from hanging too low. This can lead to spinal misalignment and pain. Hip belts also help improve balance and take strain off the neck and shoulders.
  • Rolling backpacks don’t travel well up stairs and can be a tripping hazard for other kids in the hallway. Also, many schools are banning their use, so check with your child’s school before purchasing.

Hopefully these tips will help keep you and your family in good form. Enjoy your last few weeks of summer!