September is National School Backpack Awareness Day
Margo Kerrigan, M.P.H, Area Director
Indian Health Service California Area Office
National School Backpack Awareness Day
Every year in September, occupational therapy practitioners and students celebrate National School Backpack Awareness Day to educate parents and students about the serious health risks of backpacks that are too heavy or worn improperly. This year, on the event’s 10th anniversary, occupational therapy practitioners will educate all community members on safety tips for packs across the lifespan—family style.
Safety Tips- Family Style:
Aching backs and shoulders? Tingling arms? Weakened muscles? Stooped posture? Carrying too much weight in a pack or wearing it the wrong way can lead to pain and strain.
Schoolchildren should never carry more than 10% of their body weight, and the heaviest items should be loaded closest to the child’s back. Backpacks should have well-padded shoulder straps, and students should always wear both shoulder straps fitting snugly to the child’s back.
Heavy briefcases place extra pressure on the nerves of the neck and shoulders and can result in pain in the neck, shoulders, and lower back. Pain may be described as pins and needles, tingling, stiffness, numbness, or tightness.
Professionals carrying briefcases should choose a briefcase proportionate to their body size and no larger than what is necessary. The briefcase should have padded straps to distribute the weight more evenly, and professionals should alternate shoulders by switching bags from side to side to avoid fatigue from muscle overuse.
Lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, carrying, holding, and dragging heavy loads involve static and dynamic efforts, which cause strain on muscles and joints, and wear and tear on the back.
Travelers should select the right suitcase for different occasions, and the size should reflect the length of the trip. When selecting wheeled luggage, find a suitcase with four large wheels allowing for maneuverability and smooth rolling over a variety of surfaces.
Heavy purses worn over one shoulder cause uneven weight distribution across the back muscles and may restrict blood flow at the shoulder.
Women should select different size purses for different occasions, like a small compact purse for short errands. Purses should have built-in compartments to distribute the weight more evenly and should not have long and thin straps. Wearing a heavy purse on one shoulder can cause uneven weight distribution across the back muscles and restrict blood flow at the shoulder, so women should alternate shoulders by switching the purse from side to side.
National School Backpack Awareness Day focuses on ergonomics, which is an area of occupational therapy expertise. From schoolchildren to older adults, occupational therapy practitioners consider all factors when analyzing and making recommendations about the workplace or job tasks. Practitioners take into consideration the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive components to help people live life to its fullest.
For more information:
American Occupational Therapy Association