Backpacks convenient, but be careful

Backpacks come in all sizes, colors, fabrics and shapes and help kids of all ages express their own personal sense of style. And if they're used properly, they can be a useful tool for kids.

As practical as backpacks are, though, they can strain muscles and joints and may cause back pain if they're too heavy or are used incorrectly.

Although many factors may lead to back pain -- increased participation in sports or exercise, poor posture while sitting, and long periods of inactivity -- some children 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 percent to 15 percent of their body weight in their packs.

Because of the heavy weight, your child might begin to develop shoulder, neck and back pain.

Kids who wear their backpacks over just one shoulder -- as many kids do, because they think it looks better -- may end up leaning to one side to offset the extra weight. They might develop lower and upper back pain and strain their shoulders and neck. Improper backpack use can also lead to poor posture.