Is Your Child's Backpack Too Heavy?

Now that the kids are settling into school, that probably means they are settling into large quantities of homework. And that can only mean one thing: giant, heavy backpacks.

Children and teenagers sometimes cannot avoid carrying a large quantity of heavy books to and from school, but as parents, we need to be aware of what those bags might be doing to their backs and spines. If your child complains of back or neck pain (especially after being pain-free all summer) and if she is walking hunched over, or leaning to the side, then there is a good chance that her bag needs to be taken into consideration. According to spine surgeon Saad B. Chaudhary, M.D, MBA, no child’s bag should weigh more than 10-15 percent of his body weight. Another thing to consider is how your child gets to school. Does he walk? Does she get driven? The longer your child is walking or waiting with the book bag on his or her back, the more problems it can cause.

Dr. Chaudhary has suggestions on how to choose the best backpack for your child:

Kids should try out a backpack in the store by putting it on and walking around. It should fit their body size and shape well, hugging the contours of their back with maximum surface area contact.

Here are a few other features to look for in a pack:

· Lightweight material, such as nylon instead of leather;

· Padded double straps, to distribute the weight evenly across the shoulders (avoid one-strap, cross-body packs);

· A belt that connects the two straps, or a waist belt, to transfer the load more evenly throughout the back and pelvic region.

If your child’s backpack is the correct size, and you take care not to overload it (consider having a set of textbooks at home, and another at school) and your child still complains consistently of back pain, be sure not to ignore it. To avoid permanent long-term damage, consult with a pediatric orthopedist. And don’t forget to remind your child to wear both shoulder straps! A good backpack can only work if it is worn properly.