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.
Table of Contents
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.
The information herein on "Backpacks: Back Pain In School Kids" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.
We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from various disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.
Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and directly or indirectly support our clinical scope of practice.*
Our office has reasonably attempted to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request.
We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez, DC, or contact us at 915-850-0900.
We are here to help you and your family.
Licensed as a Registered Nurse (RN*) in Florida
Florida License RN License # RN9617241 (Control No. 3558029)
License Compact Status: Multi-State License: Authorized to Practice in 40 States*
Presently Matriculated: ICHS: MSN* FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner Program)
Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN* CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
My Digital Business Card