It’s back-to-school time again and soon kids will be carting their books and schoolwork to and from school and in between classes. Backpacks are clearly the most convenient way to do this. However, recent studies are reporting that backpacks can lead to back pain. In order to accommodate the burden of heavy backpacks, students are hunching their bodies forward and lowering their heads, which can lead to needless back, neck, and shoulder pain.

Obviously, there’s no sense in getting rid of your child’s backpack. But there is a lot of sense in following a few guidelines to ensure the proper use of backpacks to prevent back pain:

  • Make sure your child’s backpack weighs no more than 5 to 10 percent of his or her own weight. A heavier backpack will cause your child to bend forward,supporting the excessive weight on his or her back rather than on the shoulders.
  • Make sure to adjust the straps correctly so that the backpack does not hang more than 4 inches below the waistline. When the backpack hangs too low, it increases the weight on the shoulders and causes your child to lean forward when walking.
  • Choose a backpack with individualized compartments to help in positioning the contents effectively.
  • Choose the appropriate size of backpack, according to what your child needs. The more room there is in a backpack, the more your child will carry, and the heavier the backpack will be.
  • Instruct and encourage your child to wear both shoulder straps. Lugging the backpack around on one shoulder can cause a disproportionate shift of weight to one side, which can lead to muscle spasm and low back pain.
  • Choose a backpack with wide, padded straps. Non-padded straps can dig into your child’s shoulders.
  • Ask your child to clean out his or her backpack regularly to remove un-necessary contents. If your child’s backpack is still too heavy, talk to the teacher and see if your child can leave the heaviest books at school, bringing home only the lighter hand-outs and workbooks.
  • While switching to a roller pack, or backpack on wheels, might seem like a good alternative, you should make this choice cautiously. In crowded hall-ways, they can cause dangerous trips and falls.

Undoubtedly, backpacks are a useful tool for students. And by following these simple guidelines, you can help keep them from becoming a burden that leads to back pain.
This article appeared in:
Bulverde Community News
August 2003