NORFOLK-The kids are back in school and many of them are carrying their belongings in backbacks. This is an alert for parents - heavily-loaded bags carried by more than 79 million students across the country can cause low back pain.

Backpack weight is becoming an increasing problem, and studies show that heavy backpacks can lead to both back pain and poor posture. CHKD Orthopedic and Sports Medicine physician Dr. Allison Crepeau had some advice for parents.

Tip 1: This painful trend among youngsters isn't surprising when you consider the disproportionate amounts of weight they carry in their backpacks - often slung over just one shoulder.
-Backpacks are supposed to alleviate pain, not create it. But when worn incorrectly, they can cause your child to adopt postures that may give rise to spine problems. Most kids carry between 10% and 22% of their body weight in their back packs.
-Research shows that heavy loads may cause spinal discs to compress. As the weight of the backpack increases, so may the degree of disc compression. -Backpacks DO NOT cause scoliosis.
-Heavy packs may cause kids to change their spinal position to accommodate the load. This can result in back pain. Backpack wearers tend to begin adapting their posture once the weight of the pack reaches about 26 lbs.

Tip 2: Backpack Buying Tips:
-The backpack should never hang more than 4 inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking. -Purchase a backpack with individualized compartments. This will help position the contents most effectively.
-Bigger is not necessarily better. The more room there is in a backpack, the more your child will carry and the heavier the backpack will be.
-The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child's body. Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain. Urge your child to wear both shoulder straps. Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause a disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading other issues such as neck, muscle spasms, and low-back pain.
-Backpacks with a waist strap have been shown to decrease pain.

Tip 3: What can parents do?
-Have your child wear the pack only when necessary and carry only what is needed - Observe your child's spine and lessen the load in the backpack
-Lessen the load in the backpack and remember when adjusting the backpack to your child's waistline, the waistline is where the belly button, not the hips.
-Pack heavier items at the bottom. The goal is to transfer the weight to the hips. - No one should carry more than 25 lbs. in a backpack.
-Parents do not ignore your child's complaints of shoulder discomfort, neck pain, back pain or numbness or tingling in the arms or legs. These may be symptoms of incorrect backpack use. If following these tips help, great! If not please consult a physician or physical therapist.

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