BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It's after school. Do you know what's in your child's backpack? A South Mississippi chiropractor says many parents don't realize that their child's book bags are too heavy and could cause back pain or other injuries.
Poplarville chiropractor Dr. Kelvie Culpepper says many children are overloading their backpacks, wearing them the wrong way, or carrying ones that are not age appropriate. She wants to warn parents of the dangers of overloaded backpacks.
The new book bag students get to show off is one of the joys of going back to school. But as children get older and bigger, so does the load they bear.
Dustin Slade and Peyton Swanzy are D'Iberville High students. They carry an average of seven to ten pounds in their backpacks every day.
"My orthopedic told me, you lean and hurt your back, and he told me to carry it with two straps and that's what I do," said Peyton.
"I do the two straps. I'm not cool enough for one strap," said Dustin with a smile.
But according to Dr. Kelvie Culpepper, too many children are carrying their bags the wrong way and they are weighing themselves down.
"They're coming in with lower back pain, mid back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain with their backpacks, caused by backpacks. They're heavy, very heavy. The average recommended weight for a backpack is 10-percent of a child's bodyweight," said Culpepper.
Even at that level, Culpepper said it could be too much for a child.
"They're still leaning forward with their backpacks on. It's causing a lot of stress and so 10-percent may be too heavy. These backpacks weigh anywhere from 25-35 pounds and you're putting it on an 80-100 pound child. They can barely carry them," Culpepper.
The Poplarville chiropractor is also a certified backpack safety instructor. She has conducted numerous seminars at schools, focusing on the strain overloaded packs can cause on growing bodies.
"I'm not sure if it's becoming an issue more because books are becoming larger, they're carrying more of an academic class load, and too, we've done away with lockers," said Culpepper.
She encourages parents to check their child's backpacks and remove any unnecessary items. Also, buy one that's the right size for your children's age and make sure they use both straps and carry the bags high above the waist.
"You don't want it sagging like this. That carries them and tends to make them lean forward," Culpepper explained.
Culpepper said these are easy steps to take to protect children from poor posture and other long-term health problems.
"I have four kids and I see the health implications. I see no reason for a child that age to be complaining of backpack pain caused by backpacks and hurting like that," she said.
Culpepper recommends buying those roller book bags, but only if your child's school allows them. And while many schools have done away with lockers, they often provide two sets of textbooks. One set is for school and the other for students to take home so they don't have to lug them around all day.
According to Healthkids.org, some kids have backaches because they're lugging around their entire locker's worth of books, school supplies, and assorted personal items all day long. But most doctors and physical therapists recommend that kids carry no more than 10% to 15% of their body weight in their packs.