While back pain is a known and widely-studied issue in adults, its prevalence in school-
aged children has received comparatively little scientific attention. School students
must often carry backpacks that weigh enough to cause chronic back pain and poor
Are Backpacks Too Heavy for Kids?
Recent research supports that children carrying backpack loads of more than ten
percent of their bodyweight have a greater risk of developing back pain and related
issues. An international study found that a large proportion of school-aged children in
Australia, France, Italy, and the United States regularly carried backpacks weighing
more than the ten percent threshold.
Proper Backpack Carrying Techniques
The studies revealed several factors that may help reduce back pain in school-aged
children. The best way to prevent back pain is to avoid carrying heavy loads.
Children should take advantage of their breaks and only carry items necessary for a
couple of classes at a time. When lifting a backpack, children should crouch down and
bend their knees rather than curve the spine.
While not conclusive, research also supports that carrying the weight differently, e.g.,
by hand rather than by backpack, may help prevent or reduce back pain. The American
Occupational Therapy Association and the American Chiropractic Association offer
these additional backpack tips:
- Children should avoid carrying over 10 percent of their bodyweight in their backpack.
- Place the heaviest objects at the back of the pack.
- Make sure the items fit as snugly as possible to minimise back pain due to shifting weight.
- Adjust the shoulder straps so they fit snugly over your child's shoulders and the backpack doesn't drag your child backward. The bottom of the pack should be less than four inches below your child's waist.
- Children should avoid carrying backpacks slung over one shoulder.
- Encourage your child to carry only necessary items in their backpack.
- Look for backpacks with helpful features such as multiple compartments for even weight distribution, padded straps to protect the shoulders and neck, and waist belt.
- If problems continue, talk to your child's teacher or principal about implementing paperback textbooks, lighter materials, or digital versions. If the issues continue to persist still, then it may help to consult a chiropractor.