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Overloaded School Backpacks Often Cause Aches and Pains

Overloaded backpacks cause stress on the spine and shoulders, resulting in muscle fatigue and strain, claims the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). In fact, the excessive weight in backpacks may cause a child to develop poor posture or slouch excessively.

The AAOS recommends that the maximum weight of the child's backpack should not exceed 15-20% of the child's weight. A child who weighs 80 pounds should not carry more than 12-16 pounds in her backpack. This figure may vary depending on the child's strength and fitness level.

To prevent injury, Boys Town Orthopeadics and the AAOS recommends:

  • Using a backpack with wide, padded straps and a padded back.
  • Using a hip strap when backpacks are overloaded.
  • Firmly tightening both straps in order to hold the backpack 2 inches above the waist.
  • Placing heavier items close to your back.
  • Use proper lifting techniques: bend at the knees and use the legs to lift the backpack, placing one shoulder strap on at a time.
  • Making frequent stops at your locker to unload books.
  • Using a backpack with wheels.

Watch for the following warning signs that a backpack is too heavy: change in posture when wearing the backpack, pain while wearing the backpack, struggling when putting on or taking off the backpack, red marks on the shoulders, tingling or numbness in arms or legs.

By Thomas Connolly, M.D. - Boys Town Pediatrics