spin surgeon doctor credentials and awards

Back to School: Possible Back Pain Due to Heavy Backpacks

It’s that time of the year again! The start of September marks both the end of the summer season and the beginning of the school year for young adults and children. The first thing on the back-to-school supply list: the backpack! According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, over 79 million students in the US use a backpack daily. And each new grade means more books and heavier bags.

Backpack safety is an important issue all parents should take into account as their children embark on another school year.


Photo Credit: WellCommons.com, http://wellcommons.com/groups/hy-vee/2011/aug/3/back-to-school-backpack-safety-check/

The back is made up of some of the strongest muscles in the body, but carrying more weight than it can handle may lead to chronic back pain .  However,  backpack misuse can be prevented! Below are some tips for parents and caregivers to keep their children safe from back pain:

  • Backpacks should weigh no more than 15 to 20 percent of the child’s bodyweight (Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons)
  • The backpack should never hang more than 4 inches below the waistline; the bottom of the pack should rest in the lower back curve
  • Try and purchase a backpack with compartments and distribute items so the weight is even
  • Avoid pointy or bulky objects as they will dig into the child’s back
  • If the backpack is not big enough or too tightly packed, encourage your child to carry the item in their arms
  • Ensure shoulder straps are even to prevent the child from losing his/her balance and straining his/her back

Most importantly, I urge anyone using a backpack to wear BOTH shoulder straps. Carrying the backpack with all the weight on one shoulder can lead to neck and muscle spasms, lower back pain and larger potential issues. Backpacks with padded shoulder straps are a great, more comfortable option. And if the backpack has a waist belt, wear it – it’ll help to distribute weight evenly.

Is your child complaining about any of the below symptoms? These are warning signs that the backpack may be too heavy:

  • Aching muscles (specifically shoulders and back)
  • Tingling arms
  • Weak posture

I also recommend that if the child’s backpack is too heavy, you talk to your child’s teacher and see if he/she can leave their bigger books at school and/or have a second book to leave at home. As a parent or caregiver, do not ignore back pain and call your pediatrician with any questions.

Back to school is an exciting time for children and parents, and I hope that everyone has a safe, fruitful and fun school year!

Photo Credit: SpecialEdPost, http://specialedpost.com/2013/08/21/making-back-to-school-a-positive-experience-for-your-child-with-adhd/

– Back Pain due to Heavy Backpack