If there’s one image that signals back to school, it’s seeing legions of kids marching down the street, in the mall, and in school hallways carrying backpacks, which seems strange. Even in our increasingly digital world, kids today have more physical school supplies than ever before, and chiropractors are noticing a problem.

In recent years, going back to school has meant a spike in the demand for chiropractors, because more and more children are complaining of chronic back pain at an earlier age, and the ubiquitous backpack plays a major role in that.

School books and all the assorted supplies that come with an education are heavy, and the back and neck muscles of our youngsters are not fully developed. They just aren’t yet capable of carrying a heavy load, especially not for an extended period of time, such as a whole school day.

The problem is made worse by the fact that all the “cool kids” sling their backpacks across one shoulder, which makes your own kids want to emulate that. This, of course, unbalances the load, which causes the body to try to compensate, and that leads to chronic pain in short order.

There are three simple tips to keep in mind that will help keep your children pain-free as they head back to school:

1) Limit the weight! Most doctors and physical therapists agree that twenty pounds is plenty, and more than that risks injury. Yes, it’s a pain to have to go to the lockers to swap books out, but that’s what they’re there for. Make sure your children are using them.

2) Proper Packing: Heavier items on the bottom, and lighter items toward the top. This seems obvious to an adult, but that’s not always the case with children. Take the time to explain proper packing to them. Their backs will thank you for it.

3) No more over-the-shoulder carrying. It’s true that it’s not as “cool” to wear your backpack properly, and it’s easier and more convenient to just sling it over one shoulder. However, backpacks were designed to be work a certain way, and when worn properly, the weight is evenly distributed, which minimizes the risk of back pain.

It’s also important that you practice what you preach. If you have and use a backpack, be sure your children see you using it properly, every single time. There’s nothing like leading by example.