Healthy Living

School's in Full Swing

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Summer break is over and it's time for your kids to head back to school.

But will their backs be ruined as a result?

We don't often think about back pain in children, but this is exactly the time when all the problems adults tend to experience can start.

The fact remains that back pain is still the number one reason for doctor visits in America. And it's a little known secret that all those heavy books kids lug around on their back can wreak havoc on their spine.

It's recommended that a child only carry about 10% of his or her body weight on their backs, or about 6 pounds for an average 8-year-old. But too often kids are cramming double that weight into their bags.

To know how heavy backpacks can affect a kid's body, it's important to understand how the back works. The spine is made up of 33 bones called vertebrae, and between the vertebrae are disks that act as natural shock absorbers.

With a heavy backpack, the weight's force can pull a child backwards, which causes the child to bend forward at the hips or arch the back to compensate, which causes the spine to compress unnaturally.

The problem is exacerbated for kids who drape their backpacks over one shoulder because they end up leaning to one side to compensate for the extra weight.

A child's spine is still growing, so the back pain caused by heavy bags is only conditioning them for more pain down the road.

It's important for parents to speak with their children about how much they're carrying each day. Help them organize their days better so they're carrying as few books as possible between classes. More frequent trips to the locker would be better than a lifetime of back pain.