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Back-To-School Tips: What To Look For In Backpacks

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- When back-to-school shopping this year, there's one item that requires special attention -- your child's backpack.

Doctors say half of all school-aged children have experienced lower back pain due to heavy backpacks.

"As you grow older, many people have back problems, and it starts when you are young," said Dr. Steven Moe, of Accelerated Performance Clinic in Eden Prairie.

Backpacks, which can weigh up to 40 pounds, are often to blame.

"[Students], nowadays, they are not allowed to go to their lockers," Moe said. "They walk around with heavy back packs all day long."

In 30 years of practice as a chiropractic kinesiologist, Moe says over the years backpacks seem to get heavier and heavier.

"Most kids have weak back muscles anyway, so when they walk their posture is bad," he said.

That's why kids have even more trouble supporting heavy backpacks.

"What happens is, these muscles get so they are weakened...and so then it puts more stress on the spine," he said.

Moe says the weight of the backpack should be less than 10-15 percent of the child's body weight; and he says not all backpacks are created equally.

He demonstrated how to wear a backpack and said it should be stable on the back with the straps pulled tight. That way it doesn't put pressure on the muscles. If the backpack has a waist strap, that helps the wearer keep a straighter back.

Moe also says students need to learn pick up a backpack properly.

"The absolute worst thing you can do is to bend at the waist," Moe said. "You should always bend at the legs."

Dr. Nicholas Meyer, a St.Croix orthopedic surgeon, says students should avoid one-shoulder-strap backpacks and look for lightweight fabrics.

He also says rolling packs are a great alternative.

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