Backpackers Beware: School Load Can Cause Injury and Pain

Homework can cause any child to feel weighed down. But children who go off to school lugging a backpack overloaded with textbooks, notepaper, binders and other supplies may be shouldering a load that actually could hurt their back. And over time, too much weight on a young back—or wearing a backpack improperly—can lead to severe pain in the back, neck or shoulders, as well as cause posture problems.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children carry no more than 10 percent to 20 percent of their body weight on their back. But most students carry much more than this amount every day. In fact, one study showed that almost 50 percent of the nearly 900 children surveyed said their backpacks were heavy—and more than 30 percent experienced pain from backpack use.

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Do Your Homework

Lift your children’s burden of a heavy backpack by making sure their backpack is designed to minimize back pain. For example, backpacks should have:

  • Wide, padded shoulder straps
  • A padded back
  • A waist belt
  • Compartments for distributing weight evenly
  • Lighten the Load

It’s also important to lighten the load. Children should carry only the supplies they need for a particular day and to leave the extra “stuff” in their locker or desk.

Here are some other important tips:

  • When children put on their backpack, they should bend their knees and lift with their legs.
  • Backpacks should be positioned on both shoulders and ride at the waist or hip.
  • Find out if your child’s school allows rolling backpacks. Some schools discourage their use because they are a tripping hazard.
  • Call the doctor if your child has back pain that lasts for more than a few days or gets worse.