Backpacks and back pain: How heavy is too heavy?

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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- There are a lot of options for backpacks these days, but most aren’t meant to carry everything in a student’s locker.

"Parents will come up and ask me how heavy is too heavy,” Dr. Jesse Cooper, chiropractic physician with High Point Regional UNC Health Care, said.

As a rule of thumb, Cooper says anything more than 15 to 20 percent of a child’s body weight is more likely to cause back pain. Overloaded backpacks can cause some of the muscles and joints to get compressed and even put pressure on disks.

Weighing a child is a good way to know if he or she is carrying too much.

"So at 100 pounds, 15 percent of the body weight is about 15 pounds. So what we want when we put this backpack on you is for you to be less than 115 pounds,” Cooper said.

He continued, “We want the top of the backpack right at the base of the neck and we want the bottom of the backpack actually the base of it at about two to three inches right above the bottom of the waist.”

Cooper recommends backpacks with two straps because one strap backpacks can place too much weight on one side of the shoulder if a child doesn’t switch sides often enough.

Purchasing a backpack with wheels is another option depending on the school.

Cooper says parents should remember what he calls the four P’s.

Purchasing - Buy a lightweight bag

Placement - The top of the backpack is at the base of the neck, the bottom, 2-3 inches above the bottom of the waist

Packing - Move the heavier books toward the back of the bag

Pain - Ask your child if he or she is experiencing pain

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