MARSHFIELD, Wis., Aug. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Backpacks cause nearly half of back pain reported by school-aged children, largely because their contents are too heavy. Parents can help prevent back problems in children by encouraging proper fit and limiting content weight, said Ellen Schumann, M.D., a pediatrician with Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield, Wisconsin. Young children are especially vulnerable to back pain from heavy backpacks when carrying more than six percent of their body weight, according to researchers at the University of Southern Australia, Centre for Allied Health Research. Yet young children have the lowest incidence of back pain reported. Back pain increases rapidly among girls ages 12-13 and boys ages 13-14 when they are undergoing puberty. "Back pain corresponds with the greatest linear growth rate," Schumann said. Studies show that 96 percent of parents never check their child's backpack weight and 34 percent do not check the contents. Backpacks should not weigh more than ten percent of a child's body weight, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. That's the preferred weight limit, Schumann said, adding that 15 percent of body weight is the maximum limit. Other research indicates that using only one strap of the backpack is not efficient. "Using one strap requires twice the energy of using both straps," said Schumann. Using both straps distributes the backpack weight evenly. It's best to choose backpacks appropriate to your child's size. "The bigger the backpack, the more your child will try to carry," Schumann noted. Other tips include: -- Choose a backpack that has wide, padded, adjustable straps so the pack can be fitted to your child's body -- Adjust the backpack so it rests no more than two inches below the waist. Backpacks with compartments help position contents -- Pack heaviest items first Children should be taught to use proper posture and lifting techniques, Schumann suggested. Face the backpack when lifting it and bend knees if it is heavy. She encourages children to keep books in school lockers and retrieve those needed between classes. "If parents address this when children first start school, if they show children how to put on a backpack, what is proper posture so they don't lean back or forward, then children will develop safe habits at an early age," Schumann said. Schumann also encourages parents and children to be aware of warning signs that a backpack is too heavy, including: -- Change in posture when wearing a backpack, notably leaning forward or backward -- Struggling when putting on or taking off the backpack -- Chronic muscle pain or pain when wearing the backpack -- Tingling, numbness or red marks. If back pain does occur, over-the-counter pain relievers may help. The Marshfield Clinic system provides patient care, research and education with 41 locations in northern, central and western Wisconsin, making it one of the largest comprehensive medical systems in the United States.
SOURCE Marshfield Clinic