backpack, school, chiropractic, sun chiropractic, back pain


The Prevalence of Back Pain in School Kids Who Use Backpacks


With Kids going back to school and with many (most) schools limited or doing away with lockers it means our kids maybe even more at risk from back pain related to heavy backpacks than they normally are at this time of year.

While back pain is a known and widely-studied issue in adults, its prevalence in school-aged children is not as well understood. Elementary, middle, and high school students often carry backpacks that weigh enough to cause poor posture, and backache. Recently, several studies have looked at childhood back pain and ways to relieve, manage and ideally avoid it.

Often Backpacks are too heavy for kids and this is even more likely this year with limited or no access to lockers at school?

Recent research supports that children carrying backpack loads of more than ten percent of their body weight have a higher risk of developing back pain than children who carry lighter loads.

An international study found that an alarming number of school-aged children in Australia, France, Italy, and the United States regularly carried backpacks weighing more than ten percent of their body weight.

In another study involving a sample of 1540 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 who could unload their backpacks and take smaller loads during the day reported less pain.  Unfortunately, this will not be an option for many of our kids this year.

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 even greater back pain.

Adolescents with back pain spent more time watching television than their peers and less time exercising. Over 80 percent of those surveyed believed that carrying a heavy backpack caused their back pain.

Proper Backpack Carrying Techniques

The best way for school-age children to prevent back pain is to avoid carrying heavy loads and to increase their activity.

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. Like all of us, proper lifting techniques in kids can go along way to preventing back pain.

Children should avoid carrying over 10 percent of their body weight 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 possible leverage technology by using digital books, or notetaking solutions. Several companies have good tablets or small laptops with note-taking capability.

Chiropractic Care Can Help

If your child continues to experience back pain, contact us at Sun Chiropractic. As with adults, chiropractic is safe and effective for children with back pain and postural stress.

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, give us a call. We’re here to help!

Sun Chiropractic

Sun Chiropractic

Staff Writer

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