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Avoiding Backpack Injuries in Children Returning to School


It’s that time of year again! Children are returning to school in the next few weeks. Backpacks will be used to carry schoolbooks and supplies. Back pain will become an issue for many.

It’s not the backpack per say that causes the back pain. It’s the improper use of the backpack or the improper sized backpack for the kid.

Backpacks and Back Pain

One of the most important things to remember in preventing back pain secondary to carrying a backpack: Keep the total weight of the loaded backpack to no more than 10 - 15% of the child or teen’s body weight.

If the child weighs 80 pounds, the backpack should weigh no more than 8 to 12 pounds. If the teen weighs 130 lb, then the backpack can safely weigh 13 to 19 pounds when full.

Wide, well padded shoulder straps can help distribute the weight of the backpack. Children and teens should be encouraged to always use both straps when carrying the backpack.

Straps should be tighten the straps so that the pack is close to the body.

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Heavy items should be placed in the pack closest to the body.

When possible, the backpack should carry a smaller load.

Children and teens should be taught to lift heavy objects by bending at the knees and lifting with both legs.

It is also important to encourage children and teens to participate in regular exercise to maintain and/or gain overall strength and stamina.

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Backpacks, Back to School, Back Pain

Texas Children’s Hospital
American Academy of Orthpaedic Surgeons

Backpack = back pain; R L Guyer; Am J Public Health. 2001 January; 91(1): 16–19; PMCID: PMC1446493