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Radiologist offers advice to curb backpack injuries this school year

Around 7,000 children go to the emergency room each year due to backpack injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

INDIANAPOLIS — Around 7,000 kids go to the emergency room each year due to backpack injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

A local radiologist said many people think our back muscles can carry more and end up overdoing it. That can lead to problems in your posture, walking pattern and breathing muscles — not to mention pain.

Dr. Catherine King's patients at Northwest Radiology will complain of neck, shoulder and upper back pain. Long-term, most people are able to correct it naturally. However, it can sometimes lead to what's called backpack palsy. That means a spine nerve goes down the side of your body and can cause pain or weakness over time.

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There are several ways to eliminate injuries, including choosing the right backpack and wearing it the correct way. Backpacks should have two straps for symmetry, not one. They should be padded and thick, worn somewhat tight to your body. 

King said students should also be packing the heaver items in the low center of the backpack. 

"We're trying to balance and when we have that extra load, the higher it is, the more likely we are to adjust the center of gravity," King said. "Instead of being pulled back, we try to adjust it by flexing our neck a little bit, and what it does is just put pressure on the back, it puts pressure on the muscles of the shoulder, and it can also change your gait."

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King said students should be carrying 10% of their body weight, 20% at the most.

They should be carrying them for no longer than 10 minutes, if possible.

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