backpacks and back pain

Backpacks cause Back Pain in children

It’s August and for most of the country, this is back to school time. In the push to prepare your kids for the new school year, don’t forget that the aches and pains you acquire may be something your children will experience as well. Back pain in particular is not the sole prerogative of adults. 30-50% of children complain of back pain, and the leading cause for their pain is an ill-fitting backpack overloaded with too much weight.

Overloaded backpacks can cause detrimental changes to a child’s posture, resulting in back pain or numbness and tingling in the arms and legs. Fortunately, some simple changes can reduce the risk of future postural problems and back pain.

First, avoid messenger bags. They distribute weight unevenly across the body and can change the way your child stands and moves.

Second, backpacks need to fit your child properly. A correctly fitting backpack sits no more than 2-3 inches below the shoulders and no more than 2-3 inches below the waist, with both well-padded straps over the shoulders. A rolling backpack is really the best option, but a properly fitting backpack will help reduce stress on a child’s body.

Finally, consider the load your child is carrying in their backpack. They shouldn’t carry more than 10-15% of their body weight. Heavy items need to be loaded first so that they are closest to the back. If your child’s typical backpack load exceeds this, then you may want to consider some heavy-textbook alternatives, such as a web-based curriculum or electronic books.

A well-fitted backpack with a manageable load will help your child avoid back pain now and in the future, ensuring that poor postural habits are not exacerbated by too-heavy loads.