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Lighten Heavy Backpacks

Although heavy backpacks do not cause serious back issues in children, they can be the source of chronic problems. Your child’s backpack should be no more than 10 to 20 percent of his body weight. That means if your child weighs 60 pounds, the backpack should weigh less than 12 pounds.

Brian C. Schafer, MD
Brian C. Schafer, MD

“Watch your child,” says Brian C. Schafer, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Saint Francis Medical Center. “If he walks bent over or is complaining of back pain, it is time to take a good look at his backpack.”

Make sure the backpack has wide, padded shoulder straps and consider using a waist belt to lighten the load. Encourage your child to wear the backpack over both shoulders so the weight is evenly balanced. “Avoid backpacks with tight, narrow straps that can dig into the shoulders and interfere with circulation,” says Schafer. “Make sure the material is lightweight but strong.”

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