Is Your Kid’s Backpack Too Heavy?

October 14, 2021

Your child shouldn’t have the weight of the world on their shoulders.

Here are some tips for selecting and wearing a kid’s backpack to prevent injury.   “Did you remember your math book? And your science book? What about your literature book? Your notebook? What about your pencils?” If you’re a parent, these questions probably feature prominently in your morning routine before your child leaves for school. All of those books and school supplies might be necessary for them to get through their day, but have you ever stopped to think about what all that weight could be doing to your child’s back? If your child has been complaining about neck, shoulder, or back pain, their backpack could be the culprit. The general rule of thumb is that a kid’s backpack should weigh about 10-20% of their body weight. That means that a child who weighs 60 lbs. should only have 6-12 lbs. on their back. Have you weighed your kid’s backpack recently? There’s a good chance it weighs more than it should! Read on to find out what you can do to alleviate the pressure and pain your kid’s backpack could be causing.  

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The Dangers of Heavy Backpacks

Did you know that your child’s body will continue to grow, develop, and mature until they are in their early twenties? Putting such a heavy load on their shoulders (literally!) can throw off their posture during the time their bodies are the most fragile. Wearing only one strap can cause misalignment issues. In addition to problems like backaches and muscle strains, heavy backpacks pull your child backward. To compensate for the extra weight, they may lean forward or—if they only wear one strap—to the side in order to get around. Such unnatural positions can lead to misaligned spines and sore muscles, especially if this is a daily occurrence. Additionally, if a kid’s backpack has narrow, unpadded straps, they can dig into the soft muscles and nerves on their shoulders, causing numbness or tingling in the hands.  

Choose Wisely

Backpacks come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. But the best bookbag for your child might not be the one they would choose. (Sorry, Spiderman.) Regardless of how much it costs (or what character is on it), there are some features that you’ll want their backpack to have. Padded straps are always a great feature. The padding creates a cushion between the heavy load and your child’s body. Make sure that the part that faces your child’s back has a cushion too, so that book corners aren’t poking their backs. Invest in a pencil case that fits in the bag to avoid poking holes, too. Waist and chest straps are also something to look for. The straps create a sort of a tether that helps utilize more muscles (instead of just their back or shoulders) to carry the load. Finally, try to pick a bag that is already lightweight. If it’s heavy before you even add a single book, you’ll reach the weight limit sooner than you expect. Considering a rolling bag? While they may take a load off of your child’s back, many schools have banned them as a tripping hazard. Check with your child’s particular school for their rules. Pack your kid's backpack so the weight is evenly distributed.

Distribute the Weight Evenly

Backpacks with a lot of compartments make it easier to distribute the weight of all those school supplies. You’ll have your main compartment that holds the books, but you’ll also want a front compartment and side pockets. Some bags even have a mesh holder between the straps on the outside of the backpack. Spread your child’s supplies throughout all of the compartments. When weight is distributed equally, there is less strain on the muscles and back. Teach your kids how to wear a backpack safely.

Advice For the Kids

Talk to your child about the dangers of carrying too much weight in their backpack and advise them to only carry the books that they absolutely need. Once you manage the weight, make sure they’re wearing their backpack properly. Children should make sure to wear both straps rather than slinging the bag off one shoulder. If your kid’s backpack is on the heavier side, encourage them to use the chest and waist straps. Lastly, adjust the shoulder straps so that the backpack doesn’t fall below their bottom. The lower the backpack, the more it will pull your child backward and bend their spine at an unnatural angle.  

How We Can Help

When you think of a chiropractor, you probably assume it’s only for adults. The truth is the children can benefit from regular adjustments too! Sometimes even more so than adults. When children maintain chiropractic care through their adolescence and into adulthood, they tend to have less back problems and pain. This is because their spine has remained aligned throughout their growing stage of life. Children are also very active and therefore sustain more injuries than adults. It’s wise to have them adjusted regularly to help to avoid potential problems later in life. You may have never thought of your kid’s backpack being a culprit for pain. However, now that we’ve explained what a heavy bag can cause, you can now take the steps to protect your child from injury. As always if your child is having pain, we are happy to help. Call us today to make an appointment.
Justin Cough

Dr. Justin Cough, D.C.

Dr. Cough graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Port Orange, FL after receiving his BS in Education from SUNY Oswego. Before becoming a chiropractor, he coached many middle and high school sports teams including football, lacrosse, basketball, and soccer. He is passionate about focusing on our bodies' natural healing mechanisms and helping his patients enjoy the utmost sustainability in their lives.

For some, chiropractic offers relief from pain. For others, it's about feeling and looking good. Call today and see what chiropractic can do for you!

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