Kids in middle school most likely to have back pain from too-heavy backpacks

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As kids across Houston go back to school, pediatricians will soon see a spike in the number of young patients with back pain.

"It's typically in the lower back because many kids will have a heavy backpack and be leaning back or leaning forward to accommodate the weight of their backpack," said Dr. Brian Smith, Chief of Orthopedics at Texas Children's Hospital.

The back pain is most common in middle school-aged kids.

"They're so frantic, they often don't have enough time to go to their locker and unload their books to lighten their backpacks," said Smith. "They tend to carry everything with them all the time."

While new technology may be eliminating the need for some textbooks, backpacks aren't empty yet.

"The binders can still be heavy because they have a lot of paper in them," said Smith.

He says parents need to remember three things when it comes to backpack safety: 1) choose right 2) pack light 3) wear right.

The backpack should have two wide and thick straps, a padded back, and several compartments.

"Put the heaviest items near the child's back so they're closer to the center of gravity of the child," said Smith.

Backpacks should not weigh more than 15 percent of a child's body weight.

"It's ridiculous to have a 100-pound child carrying around 20 pounds of weight all day," said Smith. "That's just too much."

He tells parents it doesn't hurt to take the fully-loaded backpack and put it on a scale.

"If it's too heavy, try to remove a book or two so that you don't have as much in there," said Smith.

It should sit no lower than your child's belly button.

"Tighten the straps," said Smith. "Ideally, the backpack should be a little bit higher up on the body."

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