The Connection Between Backpacks & Back Pain

Summer is here, but the approaching Fall will see students nationwide returning to school while carrying books and school supplies in their backpacks into the classroom. Responsible parents will want to know what to look for in a backpack when back to school shopping for their children. The danger of injury from a poorly designed backpack is a serious issue. A 2013 report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission revealed that  5,415 back-pack related injuries were treated in emergency rooms across the country. 

Chiropractors warn against overloading children’s backpacks. The heaviness of a poorly designed backpack can lead to acute back pain, chronic back pain, and other forms of musculoskeletal damage. A rise in children complaining about back, neck and shoulder pain has been noticed by doctors of chiropractic in their clinics. Most often the answer is “yes” when the children are asked if they carry a heavy backpack to school. 

Chiropractors advise that children carry no more than 5 to 10 percent of their body weight in their backpacks when going to school. The heavier the backpack, the more the child will lean forward to balance the weight on their back. The correct method for carrying backpack weight is to allow the weight to be suspended by the shoulders from the straps. 

The following checklist was created by the American Chiropractic Association to help parents choose a safe backpack for their child.

Make sure the back is the right size for your child

The backpack should be smaller than or the same size as the child’s torso. The length of the backpack should never extend for more than 4 inches from the child’s waistline. Low hanging backpacks force a child to lean forward while walking which is detrimental to back health. 

Shoulder straps should be 2 in number, wide, and padded 

The more width to the shoulder straps the better as the weight is more evenly distributed across the whole body. The padding is also important as unpadded straps can cut into the skin and muscles of the shoulders.

The child should use both straps

Using just one strap to carry all the weight of the backpack creates an imbalanced force on the body. The disproportionate weight on one side can cause a host of musculoskeletal problems ranging from neck and muscles spasms to low-back pain. 

Make sure that shoulder straps are adjustable 

Being able to customize how the backpack rests on the child’s body is important. Too loose straps can lead to a dangling backpack which can misalign the spine and back pain.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Donnie Ray Jones