It’s that time of year again. The kids are back to school, and school means backpacks.

We don’t think about backpacks as being harmful, but they can be if not worn properly.

Here are some questions you should ponder, especially if your child begins to complain of any back, shoulder, or neck pain.

  • Is my child’s backpack too large?

Your child’s backpack should never be wider nor longer than your child’s torso, or the area from the shoulders to the hips. Do not allow the backpack to hang more than four inches below your child’s waistline. If your child is leaning forward while walking with a backpack, this might be a sign that the backpack is hanging too low.

  • Are the types of backpack straps important?

The backpack straps should be adjustable so that the backpack can be centered in the middle of your child’s back with the weight distributed as evenly as possible.

It is very important that your child utilize both backpack straps to prevent a disproportionate weight shift like we see with children who only use one backpack strap. Using both straps will help to prevent muscle spasms, poor posture, back pain and neck pain.

  • What is the purpose of padding in a backpack?

Padding in backpack straps not only creates a more comfortable feel while wearing a backpack, but it also helps to decrease the pressure applied to the shoulder muscles. The padded backs provide comfort and prevent injury from sharp objects contained inside the backpack, such as book corners or sharp pencils.

  • What is the purpose of backpack compartments?

Compartments help to position the backpack contents most effectively. Make sure that the heaviest items are placed closest to your child’s body, and sharp or bulky objects should be placed away from the body.

The small compartments are great for separating pencils from books, and prevent a child from digging for small items in what might seem like a black hole.

  • Is my child’s backpack too heavy?

A good rule of thumb is to make sure that your child’s backpack is not more than 10 percent of his or her body weight. For example, if your child weighs 100 pounds, his backpack should not weigh more than 10 pounds.

Check to see if your child can leave heavy books at school or home to avoid carrying unnecessary weight around all day.

Listen to your child’s complaints of any neck, back, shoulder pain or other issues. If the issues are severe or continue, have your child checked by a chiropractor or other healthcare professional.

Aleisha Leisey, D.C. is the co-owner of Better Life Chiropractic in Bluffton.