4 Ways to Help Your Student Avoid Back Pain From Heavy Backpacks

In light of National School Backpack Awareness Day, here are a few ways you can help your child lighten the load on his or her shoulders.

Educate yourself on the signs of back pain.

Tingling, numbness, red marks, changing posture when wearing a backpack, and struggling to put it on or take it off are all signs that the backpack is too heavy. A child’s backpack should not weigh more than 15 percent of his or her body weight in order to prevent back pain.

Choose the right backpack for your child.

In order to ease the weight off of the shoulders, pick a backpack that is made of lightweight material; has two padded, adjustable shoulder straps that are at least 2 inches wide; and has individual compartments and a padded back. To distribute the weight evenly, place the heaviest items inside the backpack low and at the center of the back, and utilize the hip or waist belt if the backpack has one. Using a wheeled backpack will also help prevent back pain, but check first to see if your child’s school allows them.

Make sure your child wears the backpack properly.

Using both shoulder straps is essential to prevent back pain. Ensure that they are tightened so that the backpack is close to the body and sits 2 inches above the waist. If your child’s backpack has one, using the chest strap will also ensure that the pack is close to the body. Having good posture while wearing and picking up a heavy backpack is also critical. When doing so, one should always bend using both knees, and avoid bending at the waist. Another sign that your child’s backpack is too heavy is if he or she has to lean forward to walk. One should always walk with a straight back when wearing a backpack.

Have your child spend time strengthening his or her back muscles.

Utilizing core and back strengthening exercises such as planks helps make the back stronger in order to prevent back pain.

If these suggestions are not helping your child, seeing one of our orthopedic specialists is the next step. Our Stanford Children’s Health pediatric spine specialists have decades of experience treating growing spines. Visit spine.stanford.org to learn more or to make an appointment.

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