Choosing the right backpack is one of the most important school supplies you’ll purchase for your child this year. But, how do you know if it’s the correct fit?

“There are four key things parents need to think about when it comes to backpacks; how to choose the right backpack, how to pack it, how to lift it and how to wear it correctly,” said Dr. Ken Freedman of the Association of New Jersey Chiropractors.

“You don’t want to pick a pack that’s too large,” said Freedman. “When it’s placed against the back of the child, you should be able to see the outside of the child’s shoulders. If it looks like a turtle shell, it’s too big. You also want it to have two wide, padded straps that are adjustable at the top and bottom. Some packs have a waist strap and if your child’s backpack has one, they should use it. A pack with a handle at the top is good too because it helps to have that handle when picking it up.”

“When you pack a backpack, you don’t want to put too much in it so that it exceeds 15 percent of the weight of the child. So, in an 80 pound child, that backpack should not exceed 12 pounds. The heaviest items should be closest to the part of the pack that rests against the child’s back,” said Freedman. “When lifting it, a child should step as close to it as possible keeping it between their legs, keeping the nose between the toes and bend at the knees and use the legs to pick it up. That causes less stress on the spine and less of a chance of injury.”

There are nearly 7,000 emergency room visits each year as a result of backpack-related stress.

“Muscle injuries are the most common. But the nervous system controls how the body functions, how it grows, how it heals, how it resists stress, how it digests food, how well you learn, etc. Virtually every function in the body is controlled by the energy going through the spine and if those nerves get irritated or disturbed, then that impairs that child’s ability to perform at their best and that can affect their quality of life,” said Freedman.

If you would like to have your child’s backpack evaluated to make sure it’s a good fit, visit the Association of New Jersey Chiropractors website to find a chiropractor in your area.