Is your child's backpack too heavy?

Tuesday, August 06, 2019
Is your child's backpack too heavy?

It’s back to school time once again. As schedules and routines become established we may find our children's backpacks becoming more and more heavy.   The weight of their backpacks could be a cause for concern as injuries may result.  Carrying backpacks, especially overloaded ones, can cause chronic back pain which can affect one throughout their adulthood. According to recent studies, 1 in 4 students report having back pain for 15 days or more during the school year, causing student to miss school days or from participating in extra-curricular activities.

The recommended weight of a backpack should weigh no more than about 10% of a child’s body weight.   For a student weighing 100 pounds, their backpack should be no heavier than 10 pounds.        

Weight is not the only culprit of injury.  Improper wearing of a backpack can do just as much harm.  The natural response of the body when carry an unbalanced load is to compensate with the side that is not carrying the burden of weight, creating problems with your hips, legs, and ankles as well. 

When wearing a backpack:

* Distribute weight evenly by using both straps. 

* Select a pack with well-padded shoulder straps.  Shoulders and necks have many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and tingling in the neck, arms, and hands    when too much pressure is applied.

* Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly on the child’s back.  A pack that hangs loosely from the back can pull the child backwards and strain muscles.

* Wear the waist belt if the backpack has one.  This helps distribute the pack’s weight more evenly.

* The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back.  It should never rest more than four inches below the child’s waistline.

* Be sure the size of the backpack fits the child.  A common misconception among younger children is that “they will grow into it.” Oversized packs may cause injury.

When loading a backpack:

  • Load the heaviest items closest to the child’s back.
  • Arrange books and materials so they won’t slide around in the back pack.
  • Check what your child carries to school and brings home.  Make sure the items are necessary for the day’s activities.
  • Weight of the backpack should not be more than 10% of child’s body weight.
  • If the backpack is too heavy, your child can hand carry a book or other item outside of the back.
  • If the backpack is too heavy on a regular basis, consider using a book bag on wheels.

If your child begins to complain about aching backs and shoulders, tingling arms, weakened muscles, or show signs of stooped posture, please take the time to inspect the fit and weight of their backpacks to avoid health problems.   Remember:   “Pack it Light, Wear it Right!”

Donna Dettmann, MS, OTR/L

Source:  The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. –






Written by Dettmann, Donna
Last modified on Monday, August 26, 2019