February 20, 1999
From Reporter Joan MacFarlane
(CNN) -- Carol Gray, 15, suffers from back pain -- a condition becoming increasingly common among young people. According to researchers at a University of Michigan spine program, up to 60 percent of children will experience back pain by the time they reach age 18.
A study recently published in the journal Spine found that 6 percent of 10-year-olds complained of back pain, while 10 to 15 percent of 12-year-olds reportedly had back pain.
Doctors believe one reason for the rising incidence of back pain among youth may be the modern-day book bag -- the backpack.
"We're finding that apparently kids are carrying heavier and heavier backpacks," said Dr. Andrew Haig of the University of Michigan. "What happens to a body when they carry heavier and heavier backpacks is it squishes the discs (in the spine)."
Teen-agers can easily load their packs with more than 20 pounds of books, binders and clothes.
One guideline for a healthy spine states that backpacks should contain no more than 10 to 15 percent of the carrier's body weight.
Kristina Pahbarou, 14, who suffers from back pain, said her homework requires her to load about 19 pounds in textbooks and binders in her backpack each day.
Backpacks are not the only factor doctors cite for the rise in teen-age back pain. Many young people also spend hours in front of computers or television sets, where they often do not maintain the proper posture, some doctors say.
"Kids end up sitting in awkward positions with keyboards that are in their laps, at desks that are too big, on a chair that doesn't support them," Haig said. "They'll go for hours at a time without a break."
The University of Michigan's spine program says that educating kids is vital to avoid the chronic back pain that sidelines more than 5 million adult Americans from work each year.
Mayo - Back pain - Overview
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