Backpack Health and Safety

School is now officially in session and we are beginning to hear the rumble of concern over the weight of children’s backpacks.  Remember those lockers of yesteryear? Well it sounds like those are a thing of the past. Yep, kids are now expected to carry, like a pack horse, everything they need on a day to day basis right on their backs. This can pose a definite concern for our patients with current injuries or medical conditions but can also lead to a new onset of pain for our healthy kiddos.


Back pain can arise for a variety of reasons and presents differently for our patients. Some causes of back pain can be simple with easy remedies but other causes can be serious and for that reason we always recommend a clinical visit. One of the simple causes of back pain is carrying heavy loads on the back. Below is helpful information on backpack safety for your kiddo.


The Dangers:


We recommend that kids carry no more than 10% to 15% of their body weight in their packs, but many carry a lot more than that. When a heavy backpack is incorrectly placed on the shoulders, the weight’s force can pull a child backward. To compensate, the child might bend forward at the hips or arch the back. This can make the spine compress unnaturally, leading to shoulder, neck and back pain.


Kids who wear their backpacks over just one shoulder — as many do, because they think it looks better or just feels easier — may end up leaning to one side to offset the extra weight. They might develop lower and upper back pain and strain their shoulders and neck.


Improper backpack use can also lead to bad posture. Girls and younger kids may be especially at risk for backpack-related injuries because they’re smaller and may carry loads that are heavier in proportion to their body weight.


Also, backpacks with tight, narrow straps that dig into the shoulders can interfere with circulation and nerves. These types of straps can lead to tingling, numbness, and weakness in the arms and hands.


The Recommendations:

  • Lightweight Pack :get a bag that doesn’t add a lot of weight to your child’s load. Look for sturdy, lightweight material


  • Wide/Padded Shoulder Straps:straps that are too narrow can dig into shoulders


  • Padded Back:adds comfort and support. Also protects kids from objects in the bag


  • Waist Belt:this helps to distribute the weight more evenly across the body


  • Multiple Compartments:to help distribute the weight throughout the pack


  • Proper Use of Backpack:make sure kids use both shoulder straps. Bags that are slung over the shoulder or across the chest can cause muscle strain. Also tighten the straps enough for the backpack to fit closely to the body. The pack should rest evenly in the middle of the back and not sag down to the buttocks


  • Lighten The Load:No matter how well-designed the backpack, less weight is always better. Use the bathroom scale to check that a pack isn’t over 10% to 15% of your child’s body weight (for example, the backpack of a child who weighs 80 pounds shouldn’t weigh more than 8 to 12 pounds)
    • Make sure kids don’t tote unnecessary items — laptops, cellphones, and video games can add extra pounds to a pack
    • Encourage kids to bring home only the books needed for homework or studying each night
    • Encourage kids to clean out their backpacks on a weekly basis


Hopefully with these suggestions, you and your child will be able to navigate the new aged, locker free schools without any future injury or pain. Remember, back pain in a child is a serious concern and we would recommend a clinical exam to exclude serious or problematic causes.  If you would like more information on backpack safety, feel free to follow the provided link to the National Safety Council website: