Backpack Guidelines to Prevent Pain

Backpack technology has come a long way, but we still see little kids walking to their bus for a school day with bags that look like they are ready for a week in the wilderness.

In a perfect world, a child’s backpack should not exceed about 10-15% of their body weight (100 pound child = 10-15 pound backpack). As students reach their teenage years, this can be extended to 20%, but no more. No student should be carrying a bag over 30 pounds, yet it is a daily occurrence for many. It’s no surprise many students suffer from poor posture, fatigue, headaches, shoulder pain, neck pain, and low back pain. 

Here are some tips to minimize the impact of a heavy backpack:

Make sure they are ALWAYS using BOTH shoulder straps. Using one strap forces opposite muscles to compensate for load-bearing on one side of the body. This can lead to muscle spasms, uneven spinal stress, and shoulder pain. (Should the bag have a waist strap, use it to take stress off of the shoulders.)

Tighten the shoulder straps so the bag is snug against the body (no more than four inches below the waistline), this will distribute the weight evenly throughout the body, rather than pulling backwards. A loosely fitting bag can compress nerves and blood vessels in the shoulders that may lead to numbness and tingling in the hands, in addition to poor posture. 

Load the heaviest items at the bottom and back of the bag, so they are closer to the body. This again allows for better weight distribution.

Eliminate unnecessary items. Certain textbooks can be left at home/school, freeing up space and eliminating significant weight during a commute. Many texts now have free access online via the publisher’s website. Check inside the first few pages or ask a faculty member for an access code. 

Carry additional items in hand. Instead of overloading a backpack with one extra eight pound book, have them carry it in their arms. 

Try to implement as many of these as possible. Unfortunately there will still be days where a student will wear an overweight bag, but if you can limit those days, you can prevent future health issues that may have much bigger implications on their long-term success.

We here at Lake Norman Chiropractic are always happy to discuss ergonomics from the desk to the home. If you have a question or need some advice, don’t hesitate to ask!