Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Washington Post Features

August 8, 2012

Avoiding the back pain of back-to-school

When children head back to school, they almost always load their books and other school supplies in back packs.

A properly sized backpack with the right weight can be a very good way to carry school necessities. Unfortunately, many kids overload their backpacks and suffer back pain as a result.

Health experts say a child should not carry more than 15 percent of his body weight in a backpack. That means if the child weights 80 pounds, the backpack shouldn't weigh more than 12 pounds.

Backpack injuries

Most kids, however, load all their books into their backpacks and are carrying too much weight on their shoulders. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) more than 13,700 kids, ages 5-18 years old, are treated in hospitals and doctors' offices for injuries related to backpacks.

"When used correctly, backpacks can be a good way to carry the necessities of the school day," said Dr. Melanie Kinchen, an orthopaedic surgeon. "Backpack injuries are commonly caused by wearing overloaded backpacks, as well as lifting and carrying them incorrectly.”

Parents and teachers should guide kids to take preventative measures. Start by choosing a backpack that is appropriately sized for your child or have her use a rolling backpack as an alternative to carrying the heavy load on her shoulders."

Safety tips

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends the following safety tips to help eliminate pain and discomfort due to backpacks:

  • Always use both shoulder straps to keep the weight of the backpack better distributed.
  • Tighten the straps and use waist strap if the bag has one.
  • Remove or organize items if too heavy and place biggest items closest to the back.
  • Lift properly and bend at the knees to pick up a backpack.
  • Carry only those items that are required for the day; leave books at home or school, if possible.
  • Keep walkways clear of backpacks to avoid tripping over them.

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