Backpacks Lead to Long Term Pain

The effect of heavy backpacks on children has been studied and debated for the last 15 years. The significance of maintaining good posture when carrying a backpack cannot be understated. Children greatly increase their risk of future chronic pain if they are carrying a backpack that is too heavy for them. According to Dr. Pierre D’Hemecourt, a specialist at Children’s Hospital Boston, among the risks children face are stress fractures, inflammation of growth cartilage, back and neck strain, and nerve damage of the neck and shoulders.

Carrying a 12 pound backpack to and from school and lifting it 10 times per day is equal to a cumulative load of 21,600 pounds on a child’s back each year. Many children carry backpacks even heavier than this.

Research was done in Spain looking at backpack weight in 12-17 year olds. They found that 25% of the kids reported having back pain for more than 2 weeks of the previous year. The older the children got, the greater the chance they were experiencing back pain. Over years, backpacks put forward stress on the upper back causing the shoulders to arch forward. This creates compression on the vertebrae and can lead to long term degeneration.


If there is enough rounding of the shoulders, the head has to strain to look forward, creating additional stress on the neck and spine. This can lead to increased muscle tension in the neck and upper shoulders as well as headaches.

Parents should try to limit the weight of a backpack to less then 15% of their child’s weight. Also encourage your child to always use both shoulders; carrying a backpack on one shoulder can lead to muscular based scoliosis.

Chronic injury can begin at a young age – it is much easier to prevent it than to fix it! We work on injury prevention in kids every day, ask how we can help improve your child’s wellness!

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