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Pack It Light, Wear It Right

With the new school year looming, kids of all ages are stuffing countless objects into their new back packs.

New pencil cases, stationary, binders, notebooks, calculators, gym shoes, water bottles, mp3 players and laptops. It’s amazing there is room left to pack a lunch!

Individually, all these items do not weight a lot. But added together, in a poor fitting back pack, they add much force to the spine and shoulders.

This extra and poorly distributed force may cause headaches, back or neck pain, even shoulder pain. Its no wonder that more than 50% of young people experience an episode of acute lower back pain by their teenage years.

This is why the Ontario Chiropractic Association promotes their ”Pack It Light, Wear It Right” program every fall, offering the advice that prevention is key.

  • Vinyl or canvas back packs are best (versus leather) because they are lighter weight material.
  • Choosing a pack with padded shoulders and adjustable straps (preferably with a waist strap) will help to ensure a proper and cushioned fit.
  • The size of the pack should be proportional to the person wearing it.
  • When packing, ensure that the total weight of the pack is no more than 10-15% of the wearer’s body weight.
  • Place heavy, bumpy objects at the bottom of the pack (closer to the wearer’s centre of gravity) and lighter objects near the top.
  • Pack only what is needed for the day.
  • Shoulder straps should be adjusted to keep the pack snugly against the torso, without dangling freely. Using an available waist strap also helps to transfer some of the weight through the hips and pelvis rather than the pack simply hanging off the shoulders.

Paying attention to a few of these useful tips, and a watchful eye, can help to make sure your child is getting the most out of their packs, with the least on their backs. Should your child start complaining of back pain or neck pain, seek help to deal with the issue early.



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