Bulky backpacks

Many children are in danger of back injury because of too-heavy and improperly used backpacks

School may be a figurative pain in the neck for many children, but what about a literal pain in the neck—and back?

These days, the answer is yes, and backpacks are to blame. Or more specifically, the improper use of backpacks. Heavy backpacks can negatively affect your child’s health by pulling on ligaments and muscles, causing neck and back pain and possibly deformity of the spine.

“Growing children should be carrying only 10 to 20 percent of their body weight,” says Dr. Rick McMichael, president of the American Chiropractic Association.

Parents who want to protect their children can follow these tips:

• Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back. Straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child’s body; straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain.

• Encourage children to use both straps. Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause a disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and back spasms.

• Pack light, or at least smart. A backpack with individualized compartments helps in positioning the contents most effectively, keeping pointy objects away from the back.

• Do back-strengthening exercises like sit-ups. Strong abdominal muscles can share the load and take the strain off back muscles.