September 16 is National School Backpack Awareness Day. It’s celebrated each year on the third Wednesday of September, to assist therapists, other educators, parents and students in getting the school year off to a healthy start. It’s also a great opportunity to showcase occupational therapy services throughout your community.

Symptoms and Tips

When it comes to backpack safety awareness – which, by the way, also applies to other types of bags including purses, briefcases and suitcases – the best rule of thumb is: Pack it light and wear it right. As noted by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), symptoms of backpack-related issues include:

  • Aching backs and/or shoulders.
  • Weakened muscles.
  • Tingling arms.
  • Stooped posture.

They can be avoided by properly loading and wearing backpacks. Proper loading tips for backpacks and other bags include:

  • Never carry more than 15 percent of your body weight. For instance, a child who weighs 100 pounds shouldn’t wear a loaded school backpack heavier than 15 pounds.
  • Arrange materials so they don’t slide around in a backpack. Check what children carry to and from school. Make sure the items are necessary. Load the heaviest items closest to the back.
  • If a backpack or bag is too loaded, hand carry some items. Consider using a bag on wheels if your school allows it.

Here’s how to safely wear a backpack:

  • Use both shoulder straps. Slinging a pack over one shoulder can cause leaning to one side. This curves the spine and causes pain or discomfort.
  • Select a pack with well-padded shoulder straps. The neck and shoulders have many blood vessels and nerves. If too much pressure is applied, the result can be pain and tingling in the neck, arms and hands.
  • Adjust the straps so a pack fits snugly to the back. A pack that hangs loosely can pull the body backwards and strain muscles. Waist belts are an excellent feature, as they help to distribute weight more evenly.
  • Be sure a child’s backpack is the right size for their age. It should fit their back, with the bottom of the pack resting in the curve of the lower back area. In addition, it should have enough room for all necessary school items.

Plan Your Celebration

For additional tips on celebrating National School Backpack Awareness Day, visit AOTA. Or, contact the OT team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. We offer industry and event tips, as well as strategies and resources to take your school-based therapy career to the next level.

Here’s to a safe and successful school year!


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