How To Eliminate Back Pain Caused By Backpacks

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It’s back-to-school season, and that means millions of parents are buying their children backpacks. Countless students use them every day to carry their supplies from class to class, but in an attempt to keep everything they need in one place, students often end up over-packing their bags, which can lead to back pain. To make matters worse, many young people (as well as adults) wear their bags incorrectly or select backpacks that just don’t fit their bodies well regardless of how they are worn. In this article, we will explore what causes backpack-related back pain, and explain some practical steps you can take to eliminate this problem.


What causes backpacks to hurt your back?

There are a variety of factors involved in backpacks causing back pain. The most obvious source of back pain is carrying around a backpack that is just too heavy. Carrying too much weight can cause both children and adults to hunch forward when wearing their backpacks, which can cause pain and lead to poor posture. Place heavier items closest to your back; smaller, lighter items on the outside; and center the weight so that it is relatively on both sides. This distributes the weight in such a way that is balanced and will help minimize strain on your muscles.

Another big tip is to prioritize and be selective about what goes in the backpack. Pack only what you need. Don’t pack a book if there is no chance you’ll read it, and leave the laptop at home if you’re not going to use it. So many of us over-pack because we want to be ready for everything. However, with a little planning ahead, you will be able to identify what you need in advance so you can keep the number (and weight) of items you are lugging around to a minimum.

How much weight is too much? It depends on your age, fitness level and weight. For children, a good rule of thumb is that they should not be carrying more than 10 percent of their bodyweight. So, if a child weighs 70 pounds, they should only be carrying around seven pounds in their backpack on a regular basis. For adults, a fit person can carry more, but make sure you are wearing the backpack properly, which we’ll get into now.

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The way you wear it makes a difference!

In addition to the actual weight of the backpack, the way you wear it plays a huge factor in preventing back pain.

First things first — your backpack has two straps, so use them both. Many children and adults get into the habit of only wearing their backpacks with one strap, but this puts undue stress on one side of your body. Over time this can lead to back, shoulder, and neck pain, as well as muscle imbalances.

Speaking of straps, make sure they are tight enough. If the straps are too loose, the backpack will hang over the lower back, which will pull the body backward. Most people respond to this by leading forward, which makes your muscles work harder than they should have to (and no, this does not count as exercise, it’s just dumb and dangerous for your back and shoulders).

Some backpacks feature a waist belt that redirects some of the weight from your shoulders and to the waist and hips. This allows you to carry heavier loads easier and takes a good deal of the burden off from your neck and shoulders, reducing the chance of pain.


READ ALSO: Unexpected Back Pain Hazards In Your Everyday Activities Infographic


If you are an adult, listen to what your body is telling you. If you are consistently getting back, shoulder, or neck pain after wearing your backpack, it’s time to make some changes. With kids, you may need to do ask them if they are experiencing any back pain during or after school. Use the tips listed here to help make their backpack usage healthier and reduce their chances of injury.