With a new school year just around the corner, this blog about backpacks will help you understand what’s happening to your child’s spine every time they put on their school bag.

Many of us can remember what it felt like to lug our backpack from school and most of us see a small child carrying, what looks like a small car on their back coming home from school. Although it’s nice to see a responsible child taking home all of his/her homework, this may be causing more harm than good.

When walking we want to maintain our center of mass (COM) between our two feet. When we place a backpack on, it changes our COM further backwards and vertically. To maintain our COM between our feet we compensate by leaning forward through our trunk, neck and head. This adaptation may make sense to maintain our balance and COM however, it puts excessive strain on our postural muscles which can lead to injury and back pain. This adaptation occurs at the lightest of weights placed inside a backpack.

So what is the maximum we should have children carrying in their backpack? Well the research varies depending on the author but when looking at all the numbers none of the recommended weight limits exceed 20% of the child’s bodyweight. Essentially if you are staying within a 10-20% bodyweight limit then there shouldn’t be many issues. Maybe they have a good excuse not to take all their homework home.

Studies have shown that carrying overweight backpacks can cause a child pain/discomfort, postural misalignment altered gait patterns and physiological adaptations.

Although weight limit is important there are other factors that we need to address so that we avoid causing injury to the spine. This includes proper use and positioning of the back pack:
1. Use of both shoulder straps
2. Position the backpack so it sits just above the pevis
3. Pack the bag heaviest closest to the back and lightest further from the back
(This allows to prevent large shifts in COM)
4. Use of waist and chest straps
(This will help disperse the weight across the body)
5. Modulate weight to time of carry
(If the child is using the bag for a full day we may not want it to be up near the 20% threshold. This may cause fatigue)

While incorporating these useful facts to help prevent your child from injury, they should be complimented by exercise and education. For more information to help prevent injuries, bring the family down to Neurohealth Chiropractic, we are happy to help!

This article is written by Dr. Braeden Melmer, Chiropractor @ Neurohealth