As summer comes to a close and with school just around the corner, follow these useful tips when purchasing or packing the backpack for the school year.  The average student carries a backpack weighing almost one fourth (25%) of his or her body weight and 3 out of 10 students typically carry backpacks weighing up to one third (33%) of their body weight at least once a week. 1  These quick tips with help your kids make the grade and save their bodies from unnecessary aches and pains.

This is one of the most important things to remember:

  1. A properly weighted backpack should not exceed 15% of body weight for adults and teens and 10% for children!
  2. Pack heavy items in the center and close to the body.

When a pack is too heavy, the weight of the pack can pull a child backwards.  To compensate, a child will have to bend at the hips or arch the back to maintain balance.  The spine is also compressed adding pressure to the nerves.   These unhealthy postures and bad habits will remain into adulthood if not corrected and your body will not be able to function properly.

A properly fitted pack should include:

  1. Padded shoulder straps – In order to remove stress from the muscles and nerves the straps should be at least 2 inches wide. They should not be pulled too tight so that they leave lines on your child’s shoulders.  Straps that are too tight can decrease circulation causing numbness and tingling into the arms and hands.
  2. Properly sized pack should fit your child’s torso. The top of the backpack should not be higher than the shoulders and the bottom should not fall below the top of the hip bones.
  3. waist strap can reduce pressure on the shoulders and spine by 50-70%. The strap will help distribute the weight from the pack.

How to properly wear the pack:

  1. Wear BOTH shoulders straps. Wearing the pack over one shoulder can cause additional strain on the body and increases ones chance for injury.  The can develop lower and upper back pain and strain their shoulders and neck.
  2. Bend at the knees when lifting the pack off the floor. This will reduce any twisting and strain on the back.

Back packs are a popular and practical way for one to carry the books and supplies they need, but they can be the cause of the aches and pains your child may feel.  In a study on the effect of backpack education on student behavior and health, nearly 8 out of 10 middle-school students who changed how they loaded and wore their backpacks reported less pain and strain in their backs, necks, and shoulders.Encourage your child to tell you about any pain they may be experiencing and seek the advice of a health professional.  Chiropractors are experts in reducing stress and pressure on the nervous system and can properly educate you on proper ergonomics.  If your child is struggling to lift the pack, leaning forward, or complaining of pain, it is time for you to check the backpack.

We would be happy to help you determine if your backpack is making the grade!  Call our office at 701-730-3867.

~~Dr. Melanie

1 Negrini, S., Carabalona, R., & Sibilla, P. (1999). Backpack as a daily load for schoolchildren. Lancet, 354(9194), 1974.

2 Feingold, A. J. & Jacobs, K., The effect of education on backpack wearing and posture in a middle school population, Work, 18, 287-294.