In recent years, evidence has come to light that we are placing our children at risk for debilitating muscle and joint injuries from overloaded backpacks - a staple among elementary, middle and high school kids.

Overloaded backpacks:

*  Cause the shoulders to round, leading to poor posture which may become permanent

*  Distort the natural curves of the spine, leading to muscle, join strain, rib cage problems and faster spinal degeneration

*  Force the child to lean forward, possibly lose balance, fall or, at the very least, causing the body to take on a completely stressful postion for long periods of time

*  One study found that as much as 60% of children experience back pain from carrying backpacks.


Here are some tips:

*  Tell your child to avoid carrying the backpack on just one shoulder -  the uneven weight distribution is not healthy.  Excessive, uneven weight can stress the rib cage and back more on one side and can pull the neck muscles thereby causing headaches or symptoms down the arm.

*  As a rule of thumb, do not allow your child to carry a backpack that is more than 10% of his or her body weight.

*  Don't allow the backpack to hang more than four inches below the waistline.  This increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking.  Choose backpacks with wide, adjustable straps.  Make sure the backpack is snug on the shoulders and back without being tight.