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Back-To-School Bad Backs

Parents have to remember to think about their children's health, not just making lunches and taking them for back-to-school-shopping.


News 2's Paul Moniz reports that heavy backpacks are present a big problem.


Fifteen-year-old Raquel Elquezabal is the latest backpack casualty. Carrying a monstrous backpack which weighs more than 20 pounds has caused her recurrent back pain.


Raquel's doctor has told her to lighten her load, reducing the weight of her pack to no more than 15 pounds, or 15 percent of Raquel's body weight.


Dr Gail Chorney of the Hospital for Joint Diseases says those extra five or 10 pounds can make a significant difference over time.


"They're kind of rounding their whole spine and making a big curve that way," she says.


Poor spinal alignment can caused stooped posture, a key warning sign that Rachel's mother picked up on.


"She was walking hunched and I would tell her stand up and she couldn't," she remembers.


Raquel's 11-year-old brother has also complained of back pain and now they're under strict orders to use both shoulder straps to better distribute the weight.


Other suggestions include placing heaviest items closest to your back or buying a backpack with wheels.


Raquel says with subway and bus steps that's not practical.


She's hoping physical therapy can strengthen her back muscles but worries keeping her back light may be difficult.


"The teacher says, 'It's only one book from me,' but that's only one teacher," she says. "They don't realize we have eight classes a day!"


Kids complain of a catch 22: if they leave their books at school they can't do their homework.


If they take them home, they have back pain. Few schools have enough money to provide two sets of books, one for home the other for school.


The good news is in the future: most books will be on CD-ROM. For now, kids need to be very careful not to overload.

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