How Heavy Is Too Heavy for Your Child’s Backpack? Community Medical Center’s Expert Weighs In

Community Medical Center’s Physical Therapy expert offers back to school tips to prevent backpack pain or injury.

It is almost the start of another school year, and children all around the region are preparing to head back to the books. Backpacks are a popular way for children to carry all their necessities to and from school. However backpacks worn incorrectly or are too heavy can cause injury to children and teens.

In recent years, parents, teachers, school administrators and healthcare professionals have become increasingly concerned about backpack safety, as a backpack that is too heavy or worn improperly can cause injury to a child’s growing bones and joints. Injury can occur when a child uses unnatural postures such as leaning to one side, bending over or arching the back to carry a heavy backpack. This can result in improper spine alignment, spine stress and fatigue.

Ray Howard, PT, DPT, OCS, Regional Director of Rehabilitation Services at Community Medical Center offers the following back-to-school backpack tips:

  • Select backpacks with wide, padded shoulder straps.
  • Match the size of the backpack to the child—when loaded, backpacks should not weigh more than 15% of the child’s total body weight, so use all available backpack compartments and pack light.
  • Wear both shoulder straps—this distributes the weight more proportionately.
  • Fit the backpack properly—the backpack should rest easily across the middle of the back with the straps adjusted so that the child’s arms can move freely. The backpack should rest two inches above the child’s waist.
  • Pack as light as possible—put the heaviest items in the backpack closest to the back where the muscles are the strongest and only carry what’s necessary.

Parents should check with their children regularly to make sure they do not have any back strain or pain from carrying their backpack. Do not ignore any discomfort or problems your children experiences. Contact your pediatrician or other healthcare professional if problems do arise.

For a referral to a Community Medical Center pediatrician and information about our Rehabilitation Services Department, including physical, occupational and speech therapy, call 1-888-724-7123.