How to Avoid Back Pain from Backpacks

By Katharine Paljug @kpaljug
November 15, 2017

Carrying too much weight can put children at risk for pain. Learn how to avoid back pain from backpacks and keep your growing child healthy.

Has your child complained of pain in his or her back and shoulders from carrying around a heavy backpack? If so, your child is not alone.

Studies have found that around a third of school-age children report experiencing back pain from carrying too much weight in their backpacks. Many children also report experiencing pain in their shoulders, and research has found that girls are more likely to experience back pain than boys.

But are heavy backpacks really a problem for children? Or are they just one more school-related thing that kids complain about, along with the cafeteria lunches and homework?


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Why is back pain from backpacks a problem?

A child that reports experiencing back pain isn’t just being difficult. A report by ABC News found that more than 14,000 children are treated for backpack-related injuries every year.

Carrying a bag that is too heavy is physically dangerous for anyone, but it is particularly problematic for children. That’s because their skeletons, including their gait, foot shape, and posture, are still developing.

The weight of a heavy backpack puts pressure on the child’s spine, shoulders, and lower back, which affects the curvature of the spine and can cause short-term spinal deformation. Though there is no evidence that heavy backpacks can cause long-term or structural deformity in a child’s spine, children who carry heavy backpacks are at risk for other long-term problems.

Short-term spinal deformation can create permanent changes in a child’s posture, foot shape, and gait, along with causing back pain, headaches, and fatigue. Children who suffer from severe back pain are also more likely to experience back pain, one of the major causes of disability in adults, later in life.

If you think your child’s backpack is too heavy, you can take steps to lighten their load.


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February 27, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN