Backpacks and Spinal Health

It’s back-to-school time once again and parents are sending their kids off to school with backpacks filled with brand new supplies and books. What many parents may not know however, is that their child’s backpack could be harming their spine.

An average 6th grader’s backpack weighs about 18 lbs and can sometimes weigh up to 30 lbs (1). This large weight is distributed across a child’s shoulders and back placing a lot of stress on their body. Over time, this will start to take a toll, causing forward rolled shoulders, jutting forward of the head and neck, and low back pain (2). These effects can all occur just in a short amount of time.

2014_Backpacks2

Carrying these heavy loads over an entire school year will actually start to effect the natural curves in a child’s spine (2). Children’s spines are still growing and changing and do not become skeletally mature until their mid-20’s.  During this venerable time, this stress can have detrimental effects. When a backpack is carried on just one shoulder, the stress is multiplied and it could actually lead to the formation of a scoliosis over time.

A NY Times article published that, “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child’s backpack weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of a child’s weight. Consumer Reports recommends keeping the weight closer to 10 percent of a child’s weight.” (1). When choosing the right backpack for your child, take into account their height and weight and make sure you weigh their backpack at home.

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  1. https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/21/weighing-school-backpacks/
  2. https://www.spine-health.com/wellness/ergonomics/backpacks-and-back-pain-children

Dr. Meghan

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