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School Backpacks Can Spell Chronic Pain: September 23, 2013

17-year-old Sydney Weiss shoulders the weight of being a high school senior.

“There’s three minutes in between classes, so usually it’s just easier to keep everything with me,” says Weiss.

She carries everything she needs, on her back.

“Well I always need my laptop and that’s the most bulky so I start with that. And then some binders for my classes, a lot of textbooks,” says Weiss.

“My mom definitely doesn’t like it, she thinks I should take a rolling bag,” says Weiss.

“About 80% of people experience back pain in their lifetime and backpacks definitely can be a contributor,” says Kimberly Maggert, physical therapist with Lee Memorial Health System.

Maggert researched the subject and found students may be wrecking their future health.

“It causes posture imbalances. It can cause misalignments in your body with your shoulders, your spine and your hips. It can also cause strain on your muscles and soft tissues,” says Maggert.

So what’s a kid to do? They are expected to carry their schoolwork starting in kindergarten. The answer is to pack it and play it smart.

We’ve put together a cheat sheet: pick the right sized backpack for your frame. Look for wide, padded straps. Pack the heaviest items closest to your body.  If you’re leaning forward, it’s too heavy.  And remember the golden rule: carry no more than 10% of your body weight.

We put Sydney’s to the test.

A hefty 28 pounds and a huge problem says our expert.

“She would have to weigh 280 pounds to carry that backpack,” says Maggert.

Rethinking the backpack, allows students to save energy and preserve their healthy spines.