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You stagger down the school hallway, your back hunched over from the weight of a two-inch binder, three mammoth textbooks, five folders bulging with papers and your bag lunch.

The bell rings and you rush to class, unaware that your back is yelling out in agony from the weight of your book bag.

"Students are carrying way too much in their book bags," noted Rebecca Schumacher, the Williamsville East school nurse. "I've weighed some of them and they're almost 20 pounds!"

Students' book bags seem to be filled to bursting. Libby Kershner, a junior at East, said, "I used to carry my entire locker around with me because it was too far away to stop at, and then my back started hurting."

Many students share this dilemma, debating whether to stop at their lockers and be late for class or carry all their stuff around so they can get to class on time. Kim Lai, a sophomore at South, said, "Students have too many heavy books to carry from class to class and they don't have time to stop at their lockers."

So what is the solution?

Philip Fu, a junior at Nichols, said, "We need longer passing times to put books in our lockers." While that may be hard to achieve, other suggestions might be easier to implement. Lai says, "It might help if teachers decide what books are necessary for class the day before, so you don't bring books you don't need to class."

Vanessa Tan, a junior at North, has tried to lighten her bag, saying, "Instead of having binders, I take my notes and put them in plastic folders and it lightens the bag up so much."

To prevent back injuries from school bags, heed this advice from Thomas Frank, a chiropractor at LifeCare Chiropractic in Snyder. "You should start with the bag itself. Students are carrying a ton of books that place weight high on their backs, which push the neck and body forward and create injury. You want a low back pack that hangs close to the hip area, which will provide support and it won't push you forward." He recommends bags that go over one shoulder but have straps across the chest that provide support and balance out the weight, similar to a mail carrier bag.

No matter what bag you use, the most important thing is to wear both straps of the back pack on your shoulders and keep the bag as light as possible by carrying just the essentials.

Dr. James Cavalieri, a Williamsville pediatrician, said, "The best thing to do is use both straps. By wearing it just on one shoulder, over time, it will really hurt your shoulders and back."

Don't ignore sharp back pains, burning sensations or a dull ache between the shoulders.

Frank said, "When you have a problem, don't let the pain persist. See your doctor or a chiropractor. You shouldn't let it linger because it can lead to other problems."

Matt Wilamowski a senior at East, said, "This year, my back has been less sore since I carry less, and I got a new bag that's better for my back." Crucial changes such as Wilamowski's will help prevent back injuries and hopefully make it easier for students to get around school.

Melissa Chow is a junior at Williamsville East High School.

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