Kids, Backpacks & Spinal Health

The typical school age child walks to and from a bus stop each weekday morning and afternoon, with a backpack or book bag hanging on their shoulders. If these bags are too heavily loaded, potential problems involving spinal health can arise. This is particularly dangerous for children whose spines are still growing, because it can lead to symptoms later in life that may require surgery to correct. What follows are some chiropractic tips for school kids who walk with backpacks.

Don’t overpack. As a rule of thumb, a load shouldn’t weigh more than 15% of the child’s bodyweight. For example, a 50-pound child shouldn’t carry anymore than 7 or 8 pounds on their back. A 75-pound child has a capacity of 11 to 12 pounds and a 100-pound child 15 pounds.

Planning and coordinating with teachers can reduce the amount of materials that need to be carried between home and school.

Choosing a smaller than average-sized backpack keeps it from swinging too much on the back, which can throw alignment off. Also, the smaller the bag, the less probability of overloading it with too much weight.

Get a backpack with two shoulder straps to reduce stress on just one shoulder and to distribute weight evenly across the whole frame of the body.Try to keep the weight as close to the waist as possible. The higher up in the bag the weight is situated, the more stress is placed on the upper body, which can be pulled from its natural position, leading to bad posture.

Convince the child that they need to use both straps. Walking with one strap over one shoulder is considered fashionable at most schools, but it’s unhealthy for the spine. Teach the child to lift the bag up by bending the knees and using the legs and both hands, not the waist, when putting it on and taking it off, to avoid straining the lower back. Try to find a back pack with a waist strap that can further balance the load’s weight evenly on the body.

If the child can get more work done at school during a period like study hall there will be less to take home, and thus less to carry on the back. Schools can offer books online so that the child doesn’t need to carry heavy physical copies. Borrowing an extra book from the school library so that one copy can stay at home while the other remains in class is another option that reduces backpack weight.


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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Zaynab Ab.