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Kid's Backpacks: Lighten the Load!

<P>Backpacks can make carrying a lot of items easier and kids often use them to haul their schoolbooks to and from home and classes. They have pretty much become a part of many children's personal dress code. When backpacks are used properly, they are actually very handy.</P>


Backpacks can make carrying a lot of items easier and kids often use them to haul their schoolbooks to and from home and classes. They have pretty much become a part of many children's personal dress code. When backpacks are used properly, they are actually very handy.

Unfortunately, if your child is carrying too many heavy objects in their backpack they could start experiencing severe back pain.

Lots of studies have been done on the impact of overloaded backpacks on school children. A recent study from Northern Spain points out that children carrying more than 10% of their body weight in backpacks, report more back pain than those carrying lighter packs.  Most people would say that's just common sense. But lots of parents don't realize just how heavy their kid's backpacks get throughout the day.

1,403 school children took part in the study at Hospital da Costa in Burela and University Hospital Son Dureta in Palma. The study was then reported in Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Most doctors and physical therapists recommend that kids carry no more than 10% of their body weight in their packs.

Measurements were taken from students- aged 12-17 - from 11 schools in Northern Spain. It showed that nearly two thirds of pupils had backpacks that broke the 10% rule.

The weight of the bags was then analyzed for back pain. They were measured as - at least 15 days in a year- with back pain.

The pupils were split into four groups based on the weight of their bags. Pupils in the group with the heaviest bags were 50% more likely to have reported back pain than in the group with the lightest bags.

The report said back pain was a bigger problem in schoolgirls and that the risk increased with age.

Backpacks are not likely to go away anytime soon, so how can you help your child use one correctly?

Kidshealth.org offers several ways to lighten the load and discusses how backpacks affect a child's body.

To begin, start by choosing the right kind of backpack for your child. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents look for the following when choosing the right backpack:

- A lightweight pack that doesn't add a lot of weight to your child's load (for example, even though leather packs look cool, they weigh more than traditional canvas backpacks.)

- Two wide, padded shoulder straps; straps that are too narrow can dig into shoulders.

- A padded back, which not only provides increased comfort, but also protects kids from being poked by sharp edges on objects (pencils, rulers, notebooks, etc.) inside the pack.

- A waist belt, which helps to distribute the weight more evenly across the body.

- Multiple compartments, which can help distribute the weight more evenly.

Help your child understand how to use their backpack wisely. Proper handling can result in viewer injuries.

First of all, lighten the load. No matter how well designed the backpack, doctors and physical therapists recommend that kids carry packs of no more than 10% to 15% of their body weight, but less is always better. If you don't know what that 10% to 15% feels like, use the bathroom scale (for example, the backpack of a child who weighs 80 pounds shouldn't weigh more than 8 to 12 pounds).

Use and pick up the backpack properly. Make sure kids use both shoulder straps. Bags that are slung over the shoulder or across the chest, or that only have one strap aren't as effective at distributing the weight as bags with two wide shoulder straps, and therefore may strain muscles. Also tighten the straps enough for the backpack to fit closely to the body. The pack should rest evenly in the middle of the back and not sag down to the buttocks.

Once a child heads out the door with his or her backpack - the responsibility of preventing injury and packing lightly becomes theirs.

- Encourage kids to use their locker or desk frequently throughout the day instead of carrying the entire day's worth of books in the backpack.

- Make sure kids don't tote unnecessary items; laptops, cell phones, and video games can add extra pounds to a pack.

- Encourage kids to bring home only the books needed for homework or studying each night.

- Ask about homework planning. A heavier pack on Fridays might mean that a child is procrastinating on homework until the weekend, making for an unnecessarily heavy backpack.

- Picking up the backpack the right way can also help kids avoid back injuries. As with any heavy weight, they should bend at the knees and grab the pack with both hands when lifting a backpack to the shoulders.

- Use all of the backpack's compartments, putting heavier items, such as textbooks, closest to the center of the back.

Again, many of the tips offered seem like simple common sense strategies, but school children don't usually have the life experience to understand what is and isn't common sense. It's a good idea for parents to review these backpack safety tips with their children, so they can understand how the weight they carry affects their bodies.

If your child complains about back pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in their arms or legs have them seen by your pediatrician or family doctor.

Sources: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17365880 http://   kidshealth.org/parent/positive/learning/backpack.html#

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