The Prevalence of Back Pain in School Kids Who Use Backpacks

While back pain is a known and widely-studied issue in adults, its prevalence in school-aged children has received comparatively little scientific attention. Elementary, middle, and high school students must often carry backpacks that weigh enough to cause chronic back pain, poor posture, and even decreased lung volume. Recently, several studies reveal the truths behind childhood back pain and ways to mitigate it.

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 an alarmingly large proportion of school-aged children in Australia, France, Italy, and the United States regularly carried backpacks weighing more than the ten percent threshold.

In another study involving a sample of 1540 metropolitan school-aged children, over a third of the children surveyed reported back pain. In addition to carrying heavy backpacks, female students and those diagnosed with scoliosis had a greater association with back pain. Children with access to lockers reported less pain.

The number of straps on the backpack had little impact on the respondents’ answers. Children also reported limited physical activity due to back pain, and some took medication to relieve the pain.

Girls who carried purses in addition to wearing a backpack reported significantly greater back pain. Adolescents with back pain spent more time watching television than their peers. Over 80 percent of those surveyed believed that carrying a heavy backpack caused their back pain.

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 locker 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 safe backpack etiquette tips:

  • Children should avoid carrying over 10 percent of their bodyweight in their backpack. For example, an 8th-grader weighing 120 pounds should carry no more than 12 pounds.
  • Place the heaviest objects at the back of the pack.
  • Make sure the items fit as snugly as possible to minimize 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, as it can cause spinal pain and general discomfort.
  • Encourage your child to carry only necessary items in their backpack. Additional items can be carried in hand.
  • 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 your child’s school allows, consider a rollerpack, which rolls across the floor like a suitcase.
  • If problems continue, talk to your child’s teacher or principal about implementing paperback textbooks, lighter materials, or digital versions.

Chiropractic Care Can Help

If your child continues to experience back pain, contact your local chiropractor. Chiropractic care benefits many adults with spinal discomfort, and licensed practitioners can provide tailored treatments for children.

Chiropractors can also recommend safe exercises to improve back strength, and additional advice on proper nutrition to build strong bones and joints, healthy posture, and more. If your child is experiencing back pain from carrying a backpack, gives us a call. We’re here to help!

This article is copyrighted by Blogging Chiros LLC for its Doctor of Chiropractic members and may not be copied or duplicated in any manner including printed or electronic media, regardless of whether for a fee or gratis without the prior written permission of Blogging Chiros, LLC.

Preventing Back to School Backpack Pain

It’s that time of year again; time to get the kids ready and send them back to school. This includes a new backpack. Choosing the right backpack and using it correctly prevents injury and provides comfort while easily carrying school books and supplies.

The Right Backpack for Your Child


Carrying a backpack can cause pain and discomfort. The repeated strain can cause injury to the neck, back, and shoulders. In order to avoid injury, it’s important to choose a backpack that is the appropriate size for your child. You should look for backpacks with two, evenly-spaced, wide and padded straps. Finding one with a padded back and a waist strap will provide extra support and comfort for your child.

Keeping it Light


If your child carries a heavy load of books back and forth this year, you may want to consider buying them a backpack with wheels. This feature keeps the heavy weight off of their back and helps to prevent backpack-related injury. If they will be carrying a backpack, suggest that they carry some of their books in their arms to evenly balance out the weight. Remind your child to visit their locker regularly to exchange books instead of carrying their full load all day.

How to Prevent Injury


Be certain that your child always uses both shoulder straps. Tighten the straps to keep the backpack close to the back. A crossbody bag is another great option. Teach them to always place heavier items low and towards the center of the bag. Remind your child to never suffer through carrying the backpack if it is too heavy. They should pack only what they need into their backpack. Remind your child to always bend at the knees to properly lift the backpack.

If your child is complaining of back, neck, or shoulder pain it could be a sign that their backpack is too heavy or being carried improperly. If the pain continues or worsens you should seek treatment. Make them an appointment with Oliver Chiropractic Wellness Clinic by calling [sc name=”tel-ocwc”] today.