How to avoid backpack injuries in kids

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  • How to avoid backpack injuries in kids

Tips For Helping Your Kids To Avoid Backpack Injuries

Posted on: Sep, 05 2017

Children carry heavy load of backpack on their shoulders during school year. However, most parents and children are unaware of the potential injury caused by too-heavy packs.

While backpacks are considered the most efficient way to carry books and other items kids need for school, it’s important they weigh less than 15 percent of a child’s body weight. Children can experience back pain and soreness for carrying heavy bags. These problems can lead to more chronic problems that may require medical treatment.

Our orthopedic specialist in Fairfax, VA offers some advice to reduce the back and shoulder pain that as many as half of all school children experience each year.

PACK ONLY WHAT IS REALLY NEEDED – Though this step requires few practice and reminders, and this becomes especially important once your child reaches middle school. Keep a check that your child daily carries the books and other items as prescribed in the timetable. Students have multiple textbooks and will be expected to tote them to and from class on a daily basis.

LIMIT THE WEIGHT TO 15% OF BODY WEIGHT – Some kids decide to carry their entire curriculum books in the backpack. A child weighing 100 pounds should carry no more than 15 pounds. When you consider that the average book weighs 3-5 pounds, by the time your child has a few books, notebooks, and a water bottle, they’ve likely exceeded the safe zone. This is the reason why many schools maintain a daily timetable to reduce the number of books being carried to school each day.

DISTRIBUTE THE WEIGHT EVENLY – Encourage your child to wear both straps of the backpack across the shoulders as it will minimize stress on the spine and back muscles. If ever it happens that the weight of the backpack exceeds the 15% rule, it is advisable to remove few books from the backpack and carry those in your hands to help more evenly distribute the weight.

SELECT THE PROPER BACKPACK – You can enhance comfort and safety by purchasing a backpack that has multiple compartments so that the weight gets evenly distributed. Padded straps can also help prevent straps from cutting into shoulders. Newer backpacks with wheels are also an option, provided that the handle extends long enough to allow children to stand upright while pulling it. And at the same time, they should also be sturdy enough so that they do not topple over.

LIFT PROPERLY & MINIMIZE BACK INJURIES – Whenever you are picking up the backpack and you know that it has ample of weight, make sure to bend at the knees and then lift it onto your shoulders.

Pain and injuries caused by backpack can be avoided. Always encourage your child to pay attention to these issues and take care of them. The backpack is a school supply item that has an important role in your child’s physical health. If you need advice on backpack-related problems or looking for back injury treatment for your child, you can schedule appointment with one of the renowned orthopedic specialists in Fairfax, VA or your local area at An orthopedic specialist is dedicated to the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of orthopedic diseases, disorders and injuries. They treat children to help minimize back injury or strain so that they can stay focused on learning.

Ways to avoid backpack injuries – Health for Children

September 19, 2017 / By NancyKodory

When you send your child or children to school you worry about a lot of school stuffs including their health, but backpack injuries could be among the least of your worries. However, backpacks are a common cause of back, shoulder, and neck pain or even injury for school age children.

All around the world school kids carry very heavy backpacks and some even avoid carrying books home because of the heaviness or probably pain in their back. Backpacks are very efficient in carrying books and other items that children require for school, therefore it’s crucial that its weight is 15% less than the child’s weight. Otherwise the child can experience soreness or back pain over time. The good news is that backpacks can be made safer with smart packing, proper use and wear, and sensible shopping.

Ways to avoid backpack injuries include:

  • Weight should be distributed equally: your child or children should always wear both straps of the backpack anytime they carry it. This helps distribute the backpack’s weight equally across the back and enhances good posture. Ensure to always encourage your child or children to wear both straps of their backpacks.
  • Buy the proper backpack: the designs, brand names, or logos of a backpack don’t matter. Choose a well-constructed one that is right for the age of your child. A backpack with multiple compartments is good because it gives comfort and distributes weight equally across the back. Nowadays backpacks with wheels are available and it’s also a good option given that the handle stretches long enough to allow children to stand upright while pulling it. The backpack and the wheels should also be strongly and solidly build so that it doesn’t topple over.
  • Consider backpacks with more pockets: backpacks with more pockets can help balance or distribute weight of the pack. If a backpack has just one big pocket then it can be overloaded with books and other items. This can cause imbalance to the pack’s weight and lead to falls or back injuries.
  • Pack only the required stuff: the majority of school going children carry a lot of unnecessary stuff in their packs which adds to its weight. Go through the pack with you child and remove the items he doesn’t need. Things like toys, number of pencils they need, keepsakes, and the previous week’s lunch leftovers that you may find in a child’s backpack. This is your responsibility; ensure that your child cleans out his or her bag daily by weeding out items that can be left in a locker or at home.
  • Teach your child proper lifting techniques: this helps reduce the chances of having back injuries. When picking up a backpack or any heavy object the child should bend at the knees and get hold of it with both hands before lifting it to his or her shoulders.
  • Size matters: when buying a backpack match it to the size of your child. You can go with him or her to shop for a backpack to ensure you pick the right size and it doesn’t extend 4 inches below the waistline. The pack shouldn’t sag toward the buttocks.
  • Always check the weight of the pack: tripping over backpacks is a common cause of back or shoulder pain and if the bag is heavy you child can easily trip over and hurt him or herself. The pack should weigh not more than 15% of the child’s weight.
  • Pack properly: when packing, the heaviest items such as books should be put first so that the weight is carried lower and closer to the body or the back. The books and the other items should be arranged in a manner that they don’t slide around. The smaller items should be distributed equally throughout the various pockets. Make sure you teach your child how to pack properly so that even when you’re not around they can still do it by themselves.

The spine keeps the body upright and sturdy and for a child who is still developing, too much weight on the spine can cause compression on the spine, impair growth, change a child’s posture, and cause back injuries or problems overtime. Always monitor your child throughout the school year and pay attention to the weight of his or her backpack. In case of any problems use the following techniques to help reduce back pain or injuries and your child can carry on with school smoothly and stay focused in their studies.

Children Avoid Backpack Injuries

How to avoid backpack injuries in kidsHow to avoid backpack injuries in kids

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 7,000 children were injured last year due to overloaded backpacks, some weighing as much as 45 pounds. Experts recommend that backpacks weigh no more than 10 percent to 15 percent of a child’s weight, but the average backpack weighs in at 20 percent.

“In fact, 10 percent to 19 percent of children miss school or sports activities every year because of pain caused by heavy backpacks,” says Matthew Dobbs, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at Washington University School of Medicine and St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “And 30 to 50 percent of adolescents complain of pain related to backpack use.”

How to avoid backpack injuries in kids

Dobbs says pediatricians can help their patients avoid injuries from using backpacks by stressing to them the following:

• Limit personal items.

• Don’t carry the pack by hand or sling it over one shoulder. Use both straps over the shoulders to distribute the weight evenly.

• Wear backpacks over the strongest muscles, located in the midback.

“Adolescent girls ages 11 to 16 are most at risk, which may be attributed to the rapid growth spurt they experience during this age range and the susceptibility of rapidly growing spines to back pain. In addition, girls often weigh less than boys, but still carry the same amount of backpack weight,” Dobbs says. “Kids who walk to and from school are also more likely to suffer back pain from heavy packs because duration of use increases the risk of injury.”

How to avoid backpack injuries in kids

Treatment for backpack pain usually involves prescribing anti-inflammatory medicine for 10 days. Physical therapy is sometimes recommended.

“These types of injury are usually temporary, and pediatricians can reassure parents that the extra weight doesn’t cause structural or long-term damage to the spine, nor does it cause scoliosis,” Dobbs says. “But since backpacks are a fun and popular way for kids to express their own sense of style, it’s important that physicians stress safety precautions to patients and their parents.”

How to avoid backpack injuries in kids

Using the right backpacks and proper techniques reduce stress on children’s backs by 80%. They can also effectively lighten the load distribution by 50%.

As you send your children back to school, keep these factors in mind. Increasing use of backpacks at a younger age to carry heavier school books has lead to an invisible epidemic of child injuries. Worse, most of these injuries go undiagnosed. “Carrying a heavy backpack is bad enough,” says physician David Marshall, medical director of sports medicine at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, “but if a child also suffers from scoliosis, a stress fracture or muscle strain, the weight can aggravate the condition or delay recovery.”

To prevent these injuries, parents should educate themselves on proper ergonomic backpack design and use. They can also prevent undiagnosed conditions from becoming exacerbated with early intervention and chiropractic care for child back pain. By buying the right backpack, using it properly and having your child’s spinal cord health monitored regularly, you can empower them for lifelong wellness and a lower chance of debilitating injury.

Guidelines for Children’s Backpack Weight, Design, and Use

Reducing your child’s risk of injury starts with selecting the right backpack for them. Firstly, the backpack should be the right size. Many parents select far too big of backpacks since children tend to want more “grown up” designs and parents expect them to “grow into it.” The fact is that backpacks are designed to distribute the weight a certain way, centering it on the hips and lower back to prevent over-extension of the spine. By selecting the right-size backpack, you can promote proper posture while reducing their chance of injury.

A proper-fitting backpack has:

  • Two wide shoulder straps that comfortably rest in the middle of the shoulder without sliding down
  • A width that does not extend past the sides of the child’s body; if you can see the backpack sides while they face forward, it is too wide
  • A bottom that does not extend past the child’s SI joint, where the spine meets the hips, when fully loaded
  • Straps that can adjust to keep the rear of the pack flat against the body, not hanging off of it
  • Multiple compartments to distribute weight more evenly
  • Padding to cushion support and prevent poking of sharp objects or book corners

Additionally, the backpack should never exceed 15% of the child’s body weight when fully loaded.

Parents wishing to improve backpack supportiveness and reduce the risk of injury further can look to backpacks with padded waist belts or chest belts, which recenter weight on the hips and move it away from the shoulders and upper back.

The most ergonomic backpacks possible, called “airpacks,” now have lumbar air cushions. These cushions help naturally re-adjust the weight to straighten the wearer’s posture. Air cushions in the shoulder straps also reduce the load on the shoulders and add to comfort. ACT Wellness can supply you with these products or direct you to a licensed retailer.

Seeking Chiropractic Care for Child Back Pain Related to Heavy Backpacks

Despite the guidelines above, 55% of young students carry more than 15% of their body weight in backpacks. They also contort their posture and cause stress on their spines through practices like lowering shoulder straps below their hips or distributing weight on the upper back rather than the hips.

60% of children’s orthopedic visits for back and shoulder pain are related to complications from improper backpack use. These complications also cause an estimated 21,000 emergency room visits a year from acute back pain, herniated discs and more.

If your child suffers from any of these issues, early diagnosis is key for avoiding further damage. You can have their condition evaluated by a professional pediatric chiropractor in Woodbridge, VA. They can diagnose the child’s condition through state-of-the-art imagery and develop a care plan for targeted adjustments that relieve stress on critical spinal nerves while alleviating debilitating pain and postural problems.

Make your child’s school year safe and pain-free when you get the right backpack for them, and book an appointment to visit the chiropractor in the near future.

How to avoid backpack injuries in kids

It’s almost back-to-school time, and that means school supplies and backpacks. You want to make sure you have everything for a great educational experience, but you may fail to consider your risk of strain and injury from a heavy backpack. Here are some ways to avoid a backpack injury.

Ensure a Proper Fit

The Consumer Product Safety Commission indicates that at least 7,800 kids were sent to the ER for backpack-related injuries in 2017. The main cause was backpacks that were too heavy or didn’t fit properly. A study on college students showed heavy backpacks also increased the risk of pedestrian accidents.

Choose a backpack that fits snugly, conforming to the body, and make sure it has a waist strap for increased support. Readjust straps depending on how much you’re carrying and distribute the weight evenly by using both shoulder straps rather than one.

Seek the Right Size

There are hundreds of sizes and styles of backpacks in stores and online, and this can make narrowing down a choice challenging. Check for weight limits based on your size. A backpack that can carry more will be heavier for smaller bodies, which could trigger neck and shoulder strain. This could also cause back pain and arthritis later in life.

Must Evenly Distribute Weight

An ill-fitting backpack may sway side-to-side or cause a lopsided load, which can lead to strained muscles. When loading the backpack, don’t over-pack and keep heavy items at the bottom. Avoid placing weighted, loose items on the sides or top of the pack.

Heavier items, such as textbooks and school projects, can be carried. Keeping good posture at all times and not bending at the waist with a backpack on can reduce strain and injury as well.

Prevent the Worsening of Underlying Medical Conditions

Pressure or strain on your back can worsen certain underlying medical problems. This could trigger inflammation and make pain worse. Repetitive backpack use can lead to or worsen:

  • Scoliosis, or distortion of the spine’s natural curve.
  • Arthritis and other conditions affecting the joints.
  • Poor posture.
  • Rounded shoulders.
  • Feelings of pins, needles and numbness.
  • Other skeletal conditions and disorders.

Seek medical attention for ongoing issues that don’t resolve with icing the area and discontinuing backpack use. For most people, acute strains from backpacks resolve over time with rest.

It’s important to keep your back safe and healthy. Stretching muscles before putting on the backpack may help prevent muscle tightness and strain. You deserve to enjoy your school day and not have any pain and discomfort from the experience.

As parents and kids make their lists for the August back-to-school sales, one item to consider should be a backpack — on wheels, says Nancy J. Bloom, DPT, a physical therapy instructor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Kids backs are primarily bearing the weight of their schoolbooks. Bloom says that because young bones are growing all the way through high school, heavy backpacks need to be a major concern. She notes that there are a few important things that kids can do to lighten their load and avoid injury.

How to avoid backpack injuries in kidsTo avoid injury, children should carry their backpacks over both shoulders to balance the load.

Overloaded backpacks have received a good deal of attention in recent years. In fact, the California legislature passed a law last year requiring maximum weight standards for elementary and secondary school textbooks. Other states, including Georgia, Illinois and Tennessee, have considered similar legislation.

Bloom says it’s not that books are necessarily heavier than they used to be, but she believes that children are carrying more books than they used to.

Bloom says it’s important that children only carry the books they need and that they carry their backpacks over both shoulders to balance the load.

“The tendency I’ve seen is that they don’t want to get home and not have a book that they might need. So rather than really organize themselves before they leave school to go home, they bring everything. They’re probably just packing more than they need.

“Kids typically grab their books, stick them in the bag, and then throw the bag over one shoulder and walk with it more like a purse as opposed to a backpack,” says Bloom. “So that puts all of the weight on one side, and that may lead to problems.

“Repeatedly carrying a backpack weighing over 10-15 percent of bodyweight may lead to back problems,” Bloom continues. “Also wearing the backpack for extended periods of time such as walking home from school or around campus may increase the risk of injury.

The extra stress may lead to muscle fatigue or strain and contribute to faulty alignment, Bloom says. Any area of the back (cervical, thoracic or lumbar) or shoulder region could be affected. It seems less likely, she adds, that the peripheral joints such as the hip, knees, ankles or elbows would be injured.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, doctor’s offices, clinics and hospital emergency rooms treated more than 13,260 injuries from backpacks in the year 2000 (the last year for which those statistics are available). Bloom believes that injuries also can occur from tripping over backpacks lying on the floor. She suggests proper storage of backpacks while not in use.

Bloom says to prevent back or shoulder injuries from heavy books, children may want to use a backpack with a waist strap to provide extra support and more balance for the weight. Backpacks with padded, wide straps and a padded back is also a good idea. The straps should be adjusted to fit snugly.

Neatly packing the books with the heaviest ones closest to your back also can help, Bloom adds. But if the backpacks are simply too heavy, she says one solution might be a backpack with wheels.

“They are a good alternative for a child who has problems. Children are so in to what their peers do, if they were the only one in the school with a rolling backpack, they might feel odd and not want to do it for that reason. But they’re making rolling backpacks, and they’re becoming more popular. A backpack with wheels would be a really good solution.”

You’re likely familiar with the common parental complaint the amount of homework today’s students are given is hurting them mentally and physically. Whether you have been one of the many making this claim or not, there is actual validity to it. In fact, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission reported as many as 14,424 Americans have been treated for backpack-related injuries in a year. Not only that, but the associated cost, in terms of lifelong medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering, and legal liability is believed to be upwards of 300 million dollars. As the focus for most parents and students alike has shifted to preparing for school and resuming the routine of homework and afterschool activities, the best thing you can do for your child (and yourself) is learn how to pack those backpacks for school, work, and other events in a way that will avoid an injury. Use these tips as a guide to help you choose and pack a backpack the right way.

Purchasing The Right Backpack

How to avoid backpack injuries in kids

Like with most things, you need to start with the basics when it comes to backpack safety. This means taking the time to make sure you are purchasing the right backpack in the first place. Wearing a backpack incorrectly, including one improperly sized, can contribute to many health concerns, including fatigue, discomfort, muscle strain, musculoskeletal pain, and respiratory issues.

Most individuals believe backpacks are one standard size. Although this can be true to some extent, several companies do offer backpacks in different sizes. Size also vary from brand to brand, so it’s worth shopping around a bit to find the right one. To get the right size, look for one that reaches from roughly two inches below the shoulder blades to waist level or slightly above when worn. Also, look for a design with padded straps, a padded back, as well as chest and hip straps for added support.

Continue reading to learn about what to put inside the backpack next.

Each year almost 14,000 children are treated for backpack-related injuries. Lugging around a heavy backpack with just one strap may look cool, but it can also hurt your child. Pediatrician Dr. Cindy Gellner talks about how parents can help their kids to lighten the load.


Dr. Gellner: Backpacks seem to be getting heavier and heavier for students these days. Why is it important for your child to lighten their load? That’s today’s topic on The Scope. I’m Dr. Cindy Gellner.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering the Healthy Kid Zone with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: Believe it or not, almost 14,000 children are treated for backpack related injuries each year. Back specialists recommend that a backpack should be less than 10% to 15% of a child’s body weight, but often it’s more. Kids should use both arm straps to balance the backpack weight on both shoulders. But that’s not cool and so the extra weight is being put on only one half of the child’s body.

The back muscles don’t like being unbalanced. They will strain, and this causes the low back pain that most kids complain about. Back muscles being unbalanced can also pull on the spine and affects one’s posture. This is bad news in the teenage years when kids are going through their last big growth spurt and their spine is developing.

The good news is this is all easy to prevent. Make sure your child is fitted for a backpack properly. Sporting goods stores are actually where specialists recommend you get your backpacks for teens. They’ve outgrown the cool characters on the cheaper backpacks, and they need a good quality backpack that will last them through their school years.

The employees at sporting goods places can help you pick out a backpack that is the right size for your child and has the features you’re looking for. Again, be sure your child is using both shoulder straps, not just one. And if at all possible, transport only what is necessary in their backpacks to and from school. Make sure they’re standing up straight when walking. Yes, posture is important because it determines where the contents of the backpack hit your child’s back.

Finally, if the backpack is heavy, make sure your student is only carrying it when needed. Otherwise, it’s okay to take the backpack off and set it on the ground if they’re going to be standing in place for a while. Back pain is never fun. And if your child is complaining about back pain, be sure to have them be seen by their pediatrician to make sure it’s only muscle pain and not anything more serious.

Announcer: Want The Scope delivered straight to your inbox? Enter your email address at and click “Sign Me Up” for updates of our latest episodes. The Scope Radio is a production of University of Utah Health Sciences.

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