Back pain in children, teens and young adults is not uncommon, as it once was believed to be. If a child complains of neck, back or shoulder pain without a history of trauma, parents should consider that it might be because his or her backpack – or perhaps something more serious.

A recent study in Italy revealed that 60 percent of students who carried a backpack to school experienced back pain.

The American Chiropractic Association recommends that a backpack should not weigh more than 10 percent of a child’s body weight. For example, 10 pounds maximum for a 100-pound child. This figure might vary, however, based on the child’s body strength and fitness level.

In fact, some school districts are dealing with the backpack issue by enforcing laws to help reduce the amount of weight in backpacks. The California State Assembly passed legislation forcing school districts to restrict the weight of text books in an effort to reduce spinal injuries.

The most common signs that a backpack is too heavy include:

1.   Frequent change in posture while carrying the backpack.

2.   Excessive forward leaning to walk.

3.   Struggling to put on the backpack.

4.   Pain in any area while wearing the backpack.

5.   Tingling or numbness especially in the arms or hands.

6.   Red marks on the skin from the straps.

Some common safety tips to avoid backpack injuries include:

1.   Wear both shoulder straps evenly to properly distribute backpack weight.

2.   Get the correct size backpack for your child.

3.   The backpack should not extend below the lower back. Bigger is not better.

4.   Lighten the load and put the heaviest items in the backpack first keeping them the closest to the body.

5.   Lift the backpack with your legs and place it on one shoulder strap at a time.

6.   Do not leave backpacks on the floor to avoid someone tripping on them.

7.   Choose a quality backpack that has wide well-cushioned shoulder straps with a lumbar support/padding.

8.   Talk to teachers about reducing the need to bring home textbooks or if at all possible have an extra set for home use.

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