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Do Backpacks Cause Children Back Pain?

facts about backpack pain from our pediatric chiropractor in Austin.

Inside Backpack Pain in Children: The Stresses of Overloaded Bags & How to Reduce Your Child’s Back Pain 

The approach of fall means back to school. With that said, a lot of kids are complaining of neck, shoulder and back pain from wearing a backpack. The number of children seeking medical treatment for muscles aches and pain in the neckshoulders, and back are growing. 

Wearing a backpack incorrectly could place extra stress on the entire spine including the shoulders. Some backpacks are designed poorly, which may cause the weight of the load to be carried in the wrong place. This may make the student feel as though they are being pulled from behind. Leaning forward and rounding the shoulders forward can adversely upper back. Affect the natural curvature of the lower and upper back. Many school kids use backpacks because their school doesn’t have enough lockers, but they still end up carrying a lot of books, gym clothes and equipment, and other stuff around all day.

Tips to Alleviate Back Pain Due to Overstuffed Backpack 

Most backpacks are too heavy and overstuffed. I did some research concerning backpacks. Here are some points to review:

  1. A backpack should not exceed 20 percent (1) of total body weight! For example, if you weigh 130 pounds, your backpack should not weigh more than 26 pounds. The recommended weight limit is 15 percent (2).

  2. Backpacks with wide padded straps and a padded back are best. The backpack should be positioned to hang just below the shoulders and to rest at the hips/pelvis. The idea is to reduce shoulder and back strain. Have a friend help you tighten the straps so the pack fits correctly. Wear both shoulder straps to distribute the load more evenly. And – use the hip strap for heavy loads!

  3. How the items are packed is important too. The heavy items, like textbooks should be packed close to your back. Organization is the key to keeping items in place and finding what you packed!

  4. Is it possible to make a few locker stops through the day? Try to plan what will be needed in the morning and then in the afternoon, and repack accordingly.

  5. Avoid leather backpacks – they may be trendy – but leather is much heavier than canvas!

  6. Avoid large backpacks, especially those with many compartments. This may encourage you to pack more than what is needed.

  7. Can you (or your parents) arrange for a second set of textbooks to be left at home? Then you don’t have to carry books to and from school.

  8. If you are involved in athletics – use a separate bag for these clothes and sports equipment. Why catty these items from class to class all day? Carry what you need when it will be needed! 

Here are a few safety tips to follow when lifting your backpack or helping a friend –

  • If the backpack is too heavy to lift, then it is too heavy to wear. 

  • Begin by lifting the backpack directly. 

  • Bend your knees and lift using leg muscle power not back power.

  • Do not twist your body while lifting. 

  • Keep the back pack close to your body while lifting. 


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