Backpacks & Back Pain

  • Question:  Can carrying a heavy backpack cause back pain?

    The answer is yes.  Carrying a backpack that is too heavy or carrying a backpack improperly can strain your muscles, cause pain in your back, neck, and shoulders, and also can cause poor posture.

    How do you know if your backpack is too heavy?  If you are struggling to get the backpack on or off and you are leaning forward to carry your backpack, it might mean that it’s too heavy.  Most doctors and physical therapists recommend that kids carry no more than 10% to 15% of their body weight in their packs. 

    How do you know if you are carrying the backpack properly?

    1.    Have one student carry the backpack correctly balanced on both shoulders using 2 wide padded straps and waist straps- The pack should rest evenly in the middle of the back and not sag down to the buttocks.

    2.    Have one student carry the backpack with straps really long and backpack hanging down past their lower back- To compensate, a child may bend forward at the hips or arch the back, which can cause the spine to compress unnaturally. The heavy weight might cause some kids to develop shoulder, neck, and back pain.

    3.    Have one student carry the backpack with only one strap on one shoulder- student may end up leaning to one side to offset the extra weight. They might develop lower and upper back pain and strain their shoulders and neck.

    Backpack Correct
    Backpack Low  Backpack Slung

    The solution: 

    ·         Lighten the load- don't tote unnecessary items, remove items if too heavy

    ·         Use and pick up the backpack properly, don’t forget that when you are carrying a heavy backpack, it’s harder to get in and out of vehicles.  Put the backpack in the car first before you climb in. 

    ·         Remember to talk to your teacher and your parents if you are having any back/shoulder pain if you think it’s related to carrying heavy backpacks and how to best lighten the load.

    For more information about the proper way to carry a backpack, please visit KidsHealth.