Oh, My Aching Back(pack)

August 6, 2014

Will carrying a heavy backpack to school cause health problems for your kids? It might if they are carrying more than 15% of their body weight in their backpack, especially if they have to walk to school and/or they are carrying their backpack on only one shoulder.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons developed these recommended backpack weight limits based on a child’s body weight:

Child’s weight in pounds                      Maximum backpack weight in pounds

Up to 60                                               5

61-75                                                   10

76-100                                                 15

101-125                                               18

126-150                                               20

151-200                                               25

Greg King, Mercy Clinic orthopedic nurse practitioner, encourages parents and students to “devote attention to building not only a healthy mind this school year, but a healthy spine too.” He recommends these additional tips for safe and comfortable backpacks:

  • Use a backpack with wide, padded strapped and wear the straps on both shoulders
  • Only carry the things that are needed for that day in the backpack
  • Evenly distribute the weight in your pack. Avoid using a pack that is too large since this would allow the load to shift

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