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Back to School Backpack Safety

Our children's safety is always of the utmost importance. We teach them how to look both ways, to wear their seat belt, and even to wear their bicycle helmet. Did you ever think that we would need to teach them how to wear their backpack?

Researchers continue to examine back pain from all angles. Over the years the number of studies conducted involving children have grown, specifically those addressing the use of school backpacks. Studies are showing that there is an association between the use of a backpack and back pain among children.1,2,3

Unknowingly, kids are placing themselves at risk for back pain. The reason is the growing amount of books, notebooks, folders, etc needed for daily use. Students pack their bags to the brim with everything from books to their lunches not realizing the consequences this substantial weight will have on them. One published literature review concluded that a student's backpack should have a maximum weight of no more than 10-15% of the student's body weight.4

There are additional circumstances increasing a student's risk for back pain. How a child wears his or her backpack or the trending style of wear can even play a part. One large European study concluded that students that carry backpacks on one shoulder are 4 times more likely to experience pain than those using both shoulder straps.1To decrease risk of back injury; a backpack should be worn as it was intended. To encourage correct use, select a backpack that's comfortable. Usually, one made out of a lightweight material with cushioned straps and back panel will fit the bill.

Get and A+ in backpack safety:

Light loads; Carry only necessities leaving everything else at home or in a locker

Wear both shoulder straps

Wear waist belt if present

Keep all straps snuggly fastened but not overly tight

Keep heavier items closer to your back

Good posture and proper body mechanics are key factors to maintaining spine health. A heavy backpack can alter the natural curvature of the spine placing abnormal stress on spine structures. Over time this awkward posture can cause a student to develop pain. Body mechanics is posture in motion and applies to all ages. When lifting more than 5 pounds, which most backpacks are, a student should get close to the backpack. Keeping their neck and back in line, bend at the hips, and lift with their legs and buttocks while tightening your abdominal muscles. They should refrain from reaching for or twisting to pick up this heavy load.

We spend a lot of time getting our kids ready for school. Let's take a few additional moments to keep their back injury free.


Korovessis, P., Koureas, G., Zacharatos, S., & Papazisis, Z. (2005). Backpacks, Back Pain, Sagittal Spinal Curves and Trunk Alignment in Adolescents. Spine , 30 (2), 247-255.

Sheir-Neiss, G., Kruse, R., Rahman, T., Jacobson, L., & Pelli, J. (2003). The Association of Backpack Use and Back Pain in Adolescents. Spine , 28 (9), 922-930.

Negrini, S., & Carabalona, R. (2002). Backpacks on! Schoolchildren's Perceptions of Load,Associations with Back Pain and Factors Determining the Load. Spine , 27 (2), 187-195.

Brackley, H., & Stevenson, J. (2004). Are Children's Backpack Weight Limits Enough? A Critical Review of the Relevant Literature. Spine , 29 (19), 2184-2190.