Backpacks and Back pain…

These days most children to college-age students use a backpack for schoolbooks, lunches, and other supplies. The growing question I get is how much is too much for a child to carry in a backpack?

Studies show and increase in back pain and related backpack injuries over the last decade. 64% of school-age children have back pain (Negrini, 1999).

So how much is too much? The answer varies but the general rule according to most pediatrics is between 10-20% of the Childs weight. So a For a 40 lb. kindergartener, that would amount to between 4 and 6 lbs. For a 120 lb. high school student, it’s between 12 and 18 lbs. keep in mind the physique of the child as well. The taller and thinner should be on the low end of the scale, where shorter and stockier can go higher.

The next aspect of weight in a backpack is the distribution of material within the backpack. Flatter things should go towards the back. The use of different compartments will also help evenly distribute the weight. Here are some additional tips to go by.

  • Carrying it on both shoulders and not just hanging over one side.  That kind of uneven distribution is a problem just waiting to happen. Wear it properly, and that means over BOTH shoulders.
  • Get backpacks with wider, padded shoulder straps as well as back padding.
  • The backpack should NOT be bigger than the child’s back.  Although this seems obvious, the bigger the pack, the more stuff gets put in it – increasing the chance of overloading and injury.
  • Whenever possible, have an extra set of books in the classroom and another set at home if it’s allowed.

One last thing, if children are in pain they are less likely to pay attention. So a possible indicator of back pain is suddenly declining grades.

Michael T. Murphy D.C.
182 Grassy Plain Street