To Your Health: Backpack Awareness

Sep 9, 2020

What if when we talked about kids going “back to school” we considered their actual backs and their spinal health?

A 2006 study in The Pediatric Journal of Orthopedics found 37% of children experience back pain due to carrying heavy backpacks. Rob Danoff, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and a certified family physician with Philadelphia’s Aria Health System compares the spine to the frame of a house: it’s what keeps your child’s body sturdy and upright. Put too much weight on this frame while a young body is still developing, and it could change a kid’s posture, compress his spine, and impair growth.

The American Occupational Therapy Association sponsors “weigh-ins” to show students how heavy their backpacks are becoming and suggest ways to lighten the load as well as carry it better. Different compartments and pockets should be utilized to distribute weight. Heavier items should be placed closer to the center and lighter items toward the front.The pack should not be more than 15% of a person’s weight. Utilize both arm straps, as well as hip and sternum straps if the pack has them. The backpack should fit snugly against the back. Check each day to make sure you aren’t carrying unnecessary weight. For example, take empty water bottles and fill them at school.