Reporting Cynthia Demos
MIAMI (CBS4) – Kids in school often complain their backpacks are too heavy. So it’s no surprise when doctors say those weighted down bags could cause lasting health problems for children. But there are some things you can do to help your children reduce their risk.
We all see it. Little kids carrying big loads. Backpacks filled with heavy textbooks, binders, notebooks, supplies and even sports equipment. One mother said her son often carries a pack that weighs about 30 pounds.
Cassidy is a 12-year-old seventh grader. Her heavy pack hurts her.
“It would hurt my neck and my upper back and also my lower back too because I would have to arch my back,” she said. “I would also get headaches if it was really heavy.”
She’s not alone.
“Backpack pain is a daily complaint in the office,” said Dr. Randolph Cohen with Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood. Dr. Cohen says he sees a lot of kids with neck pain, upper and lower back pain, tendonitis and muscle fatigue.
“We usually recommend you don’t exceed 15-percent of your body weight,” said Dr. Cohen.
So what’s a parent to do? Besides the obvious of encouraging your son or daughter to clean out their backpacks every week and get rid of unnecessary weight, it’s important that they wear the backpacks properly, which means don’t let kids sling them over one shoulder.
“It puts more stress on one shoulder than the other shoulder, more on one clavicle, more on the muscles that attach to your neck on the one side of the trapezoids than the other,” according to Dr. Cohen
Also, the backpacks tend to be carried low which puts pressure on the lower back. Dr. Cohen says kids should wear them higher.
“So it’s much better particularly if you have a heavy backpack to have it centered and have it up high enough on your back so that you can stand up straight without having to hunch forwards or backwards.”
It helps to have wide shoulder pads and put the heaviest items closest to your body and lighter materials in the outer compartments.
Making those kinds of changes helped Cassidy.
“It doesn’t hurt a lot anymore,” she said.
It’s worth talking to your kids about this because even if they’re not having a problem right now, over time an overloaded pack can take a toll.