NORFOLK -- When you're doing back-to-school shopping,really think about your child's backpack. Health officials say backpack weight continues to be a problem increasing problem and studies show that heavy backpacks can lead to both back pain and poor posture.

Here are some tips for parents from CHKD Pediatrician Dr. Carol Steiner.

Tip 1: Observe Your Child's Spine and Lessen the Load in the Backpack
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.
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.

Tip 3: Carry Only What Is Necessary
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.
Wear the pack only when necessary.

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