Pack it Light, Wear it Right

 Aching back & shoulders, weakened muscles, tingling arms & stooped posture.  Does your child have these symptoms after wearing a heavy school backpack?  Carrying too much weight in a pack or wearing it the wrong way can lead to pain & strain.  Parents can take steps to help children load & wear backpacks the right way to avoid health problems.

Loading a Backpack

v  Never let a child carry more than 15% of his or her body weight.  This means a child who weighs 100 pounds shouldn’t wear a loaded school backpack heavier than 15 pounds.

v  Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back (the back of the pack).

v  Arrange books & materials so they won’t slide around in the backpack.

v  Check what your child carries to school & brings home.  Make sure the items are necessary to the day’s activities.

v  On days the backpack is too loaded, your child can hand carry a book or other item.

v  If the backpack is too heavy, consider using a book bag on wheels if your child’s school allows it.

Wearing a Backpack

v  Both shoulder straps should always be worn.  Wearing a pack slung over one shoulder can cause a child to lean to one side, curving the spine & causing pain or discomfort.

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

v  Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly to the child’s back.  A pack that hangs loosely from the back can pull the child backwards & strain muscles.

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

v  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.

v  School backpacks come in different sizes for different ages.  Choose the right size pack for your child’s back as well as one with enough room for necessary school items.

Lifting a Backpack

v  Face the backpack before you lift it.

v  Bend at the knees & lift with your legs not with your back.

v  Keep the pack close to the body.

Facts About Backpack Injury

v  Heavy backpacks have a destructive impact on the posture & spinal health of children.

v  Today’s heavy loads are causing injuries that can last a lifetime.

v  55% of students carry more than the recommended national guidelines of 10-15% of body weight.

v  The average student has a Visual Analog Scale (VAS) score for pain of 5.8.  (This study further showed that a good way to prevent this injury was with an AIRPACKS backpack.  Specifically, the average student wearing an AIRPACKS backpack had a 50% reduction in pain as compared to the control group & had an average VAS score of 1.8).

v  66% of school nurses reported seeing students with pain or injury attributes to carrying backpacks.

v  Up to 60% of children will experience back pain by the time they reach 18 years of age.

v  National Public Radio reported that 65% of adolescents’ visits to doctors are for backpack related injuries.

v  TheAmericanAcademyof Orthopedics stated that backpack injury is a significant problem for children.

  • 58% have seen patients complaining about back or shoulder pain related to backpacks
  • 65% have recommended that a patient modify use of a backpack to improve of correct a back problem.
  • Medical professionals advise that individuals carry no more than 10-15% of their body weight on their backs.


Users’ Weight

Backpack Weight

50 lbs

No more than 7.5 lbs

80 lbs

No more than 12 lbs

100 lbs

No more than 15 lbs

130 lbs

No more than 19.5 lbs

Many children, teens & adults are carrying up to 40 lbs & are potentially injuring themselves.

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