Tips to help prevent kids' back pain from heavy backpacks

    6:26 AM, Aug 22, 2013   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Backpacks are popular and practical for children and teens to carry schoolbooks and supplies. But, they can also cause back major back pain.

    It's a common problem. How can you as a parent help?

    Dr. Kathryn McCarthy from Arkansas Specialty Orthopaedics stopped by "THV 11 This Morning" to share her expertise.

    As kids return to school this month, parents should not wait for them to complain about back pain. Instead, they should pay attention to their posture and keep an attentive eye on all of the items that are loaded into their backpack each day.

    • Experts recommend that kids carry no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight, but that doesn't always seem to be the case.

    • According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 13,700 kids, ages 5-18 years old, were treated in hospitals and doctors' offices for injuries related to backpacks.

    • The following safety tips are recommended to help eliminate pain and discomfort due to backpacks:
        o Always use both shoulder straps to keep the weight of the backpack better distributed.
        o Tighten the straps and use waist strap if the bag has one.
        o Remove or organize items if too heavy and place biggest items closest to the back.
        o Lift properly and bend at the knees to pick up a backpack.
        o Carry only those items that are required for the day; leave books at home or school, if possible.

    • Parents also can help with backpack-related pain:
       o Encourage your child or teenager to tell you about pain or discomfort that may be caused by a heavy backpack, like numbness or tingling in the arms or legs. 
       o Purchase a backpack appropriate for the size of your child and look for any changes in your child's posture when he or she wears the backpack.
       o Watch your child put on or take off the backpack to see if it is a struggle. Do not ignore red marks on the shoulders if your child or teenager expresses discomfort.
       o Talk to the school about lightening the load. Keep the load under 10-15 percent of the child's bodyweight.
       o Be sure the school allows students to stop at their lockers throughout the day.

    • Teachers can help by following these tips:
       o When planning lessons, take into consideration ways to lighten a child's backpack load.
       o Allow enough time for kids to stop by their lockers to drop off books.

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