Backpack, Back Pain, Back to School, Children's Health

Who hasn’t wondered whether small children lugging oversized, heavy backpacks to-and-from school might be risking serious injury to their growing spines and will one day suffer from serious back pain?

Apparently, there is real cause for concern.

According to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission study, more than 75% of students ages 8-12 suffer from increasing back pain inflicted by carrying their schoolwork and supplies in backpacks or similar totes.

Some of our younger elementary school students are literally carrying one third their body weight for prolonged periods of time and distance. That puts a lot of stress on a body in the midst of development

And, the heavy burdens are not just affecting those students small in stature.

Student back injuries are now widespread. 96% of the kids monitored regularly haul much too heavy a pack on their back. In 2001 alone, 7,000 children went to U.S. emergency rooms for backpack-related injuries. And, 60% of orthopedic doctors contacted regarding the study reported that they have treated children suffering from back pain caused by their heavy bags.

The study alluded to this startling calculation: A child carrying a 12-pound backpack, and lifting it 10 times per day for the entire school year, has carried and lifted a combined load of 21,600 pounds — the equivalent of 6 mid-sized cars.

A good rule of thumb is that children should not carry backpacks that exceed more than 10% of their body weight — which translates into a 5 to 10-pound load for elementary students.

Even with the continued progression of electronic learning – which one would think leads to fewer books – the backpack has become a survival kit for the action-packed lives that today’s children lead during and after school hours. Parents and teachers have to take an active role in limiting what we literally load onto these children. If we don’t address it now, the picture of a child carrying numerous books – which many have seen as a sign for a bright future – could foreshadow a painful outlook instead.

Has your child already begun to complain of back or neck pain?

A misaligned spine that is carrying those heavy loads could be the reason.

It is much easier to grow healthy kids than it is to repair damaged adults.

Reference Material:

“Backpack-Related Injuries Send 7,000 to ER,” Ancaster News, Ontario, Canada, Sept. 1, 2006.


Dr. Tymothy Flory, Dr. James Weiss and Dr. Jameson Wong of Atlas Spinal Care in Upland, California are Upper Cervical Specialists trained by the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA). Their upper cervical clinic also serves Claremont, La Verne, San Dimas, Glendora and surrounding areas. They are uniquely trained to correct problems in the upper cervical spine (upper neck). This vital area is intimately connected to the central nervous system and problems in this area have been shown to be an underlying cause of a variety of different health problems.