B2S Health: heavy backpacks

Going back to school can be a strain on kids' brains, but it can also do a number on their backs with backpacks weighing in on the very heavy side.

Students' backpacks are packing the pounds!  It is a heavy problem that could have some painful consequences, according to physiatrist Craig Morton at Center for Orthopaedics.  "Stress fractures, you could damage the growth cartilage in the bone, neck and low back strain, possibly even nerve damage to the back or shoulder," said Dr. Morton.

It could be a one time event or something that becomes cumulative over time.  "In the middle of the year, you start to see a lot of fatigue building up in these kids and that's when they start to experience a lot of the pain," said Dr. Morton.

To avoid the pain and problems, doctors recommend that students avoid packing around more than 10 percent of their body weight.  "A lot of kids are carrying up to 25 percent of their body weight and that's the equivalent of 180 pound man carrying a 45 pound backpack all day long," said Dr. Morton.

Talk about weighing you down!  Dr. Morton says the first step to reduce the backpack bulk is to talk to the teacher.  "At the end of your day, talk to your teacher and find out what books you really need to bring home," he said.

Next: pack strategically.  "Carry the heavier objects closer to the body, so pack the heavy objects in first and the lighter objects toward the end," said Dr. Morton.

Third on the list: double check that the backpack is one with two wide padded straps and a padded back.  "This will protect the back, especially with heavier loads," said Dr. Morton.

Finally, do not just throw the backpack on and let it hang off your body.  Follow these tips to keep your neck and back healthy year-round, "You don't want it to hang more than four inches below the waistline," said Dr. Morton, "and if they're willing to wear the belt strap around their waist, that will also help take an additional load off the back."

If you are a parent and hear your child complaining of back pain, shoulder pain, numbness or tingling in the hands - those are all signs that the backpack could be too heavy.

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