Re-Pack Your Backpack

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Researchers at University of Michigan say up to 60 percent of kids will experience back pain before they reach age 18, mainly due to heavy backpacks.

It might be the way most students carry their bags, usually on just one shoulder, that causes pain, but even if you distribute the weight on both shoulders, it could be how much you're carrying.

The average student carries about 12 lbs. on their back; although it's probably a little more considering how thick books are these days. By the end of the day, you've probably picked up and dropped off your bag 10 times, and at the end of the school year, that's the equivalent of about six mid-size cars.

"Backpacks have become students' lockers if we look at the volume and weight of what kids are asked to bring to and from home, it's substantial and can take a toll," Mark Brett, physical therapist and Director of Sparrow Hospital Rehabilitation.

Mark says backpacks should only weigh five to 15 percent of your body weight. Students should also carry it less often. While waiting for the buss or class to start, put it down. There are also bags on wheels that are especially helpful if you walk to class. And even though the messenger bag is the newest fad, it's highly suggested to carry one with two, thick, well-padded straps.

But if pain is recurring, and causing numbness in the neck or arms, see your doctor for some relaxing tips. Extended Web Coverage

Backpack Safety

Some studies have shown that as many as 30 percent to 50 percent of 15- to 16-year-olds suffer from back pain, which may be caused by the improper use of backpacks. But there are steps you can take to help your child avoid back pain and other problems associated with improperly used backpacks.

Safest Backpacks

  • The safest backpacks have the following features:
    • Two wide, padded straps that go over the shoulders.

    • A padded waist or chest belt to distribute weight more evenly across the body.

    • Multiple compartments to distribute the weight of the load.

    • Width not greater than the child's torso.

  • Bags that are slung over the shoulder or across the chest or only have one strap aren't as effective at distributing the weight as bags with two wide shoulder straps.

  • Limiting the weight of the backpack is key to preventing injuries.

  • The American Physical Therapy Association recommends that children carry backpacks of no more than 15 percent of their body weight.

      What Should Your Child Do?

      • Encourage the child to use his or her locker or desk frequently throughout the day instead of carrying the entire day's worth of books in their backpack.

      • Make sure your child or teen isn't toting unnecessary items - laptops, CD players, and video games can add extra pounds to your child's pack.

      • If your child does have to carry sports equipment or other weighty things, the heavier items should be placed closer to the back toward the body.

      • Your child can also avoid injuries by picking up his backpack properly. The child should bend at the knees and grab the pack with both hands when lifting a backpack to his or her shoulders.

      (Kids Health for Parents Web site)