What You Need to Know About Child Backpacks & Back Pain

The school year is beginning. Thousands of families are shopping for the coolest backpack.

Yet doctors recently found something shocking about back-to-school back pain.

In a study of 5318 healthy students aged 6 to 19, over 60% reported back pain due to schoolbag use. So says Irene Aprile, M.D., from the Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation.

If your child has back pain, talk to your doctor. And talk to one of our licensed therapists.

The researchers found that adolescent teen girls faced a greater and more severe risk of intense pain than boys.

The pain appeared regardless of the amount of weight in the backpack.

However, the amount of time they carried the backpack seems to be the strongest reason for the pain.

How much is too much?

More studies will have to prove this – but there’s a problem, for sure.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission documented over 13,000 backpack-related injuries in a recent year for kids aged 5-18. These included a variety of acute pains, sprains, muscle spasms, stress fractures, inflammation and nerve injuries.

The Spine Institute of Central Florida makes these recommendations:

Backpacks should have:

  • 2 wide, well-padded shoulder straps
  • An available waist strap
  • A padded back
  • Multiple compartments are best, as they allow for more even weight distribution

Carrying techniques:

  • A child should never carry more than 15% of their bodyweight. (For example, if your child weighs 75 pounds, the maximum backpack weight should be 10 pounds. If your child weighs 125 pounds, they should carry less than 18 pounds.)
  • Heavier items should go lower in the backpack and closer to your child’s back
  • Use all the compartments to evenly distribute the weight
  • Only carry what you absolutely have to for that day – leave unnecessary items at home
  • Adjust the straps so the pack fits against your child’s back – not hanging loosely with a large gap between the pack and their back
  • Never carry the pack with just one strap
  • Lift with your knees, not your back
  • Packs should never hang lower than your child’s hip bone – the lower the hang, the more your child leans forward, stressing the shoulders and back
  • Use a rolling backpack instead if there are any known back problems

And for all you adults with a messenger bag slung over your shoulder…listen up! These guidelines apply to you too.

How can I help you with back pain questions? Call me at 313-920-2350.


by Sarah Shropshire
LMT, Essential Oil Consultant and Business Owner