Backpack, commonly referred to as school bag in these parts, helps school-bound children carry their school items to school. And if the school bag comes with different compartments, even better.


This makes it easier for children to stay organised through their day, with each item snugly stowed away in its compartment and reached for only when needed. But this backpack business is not all rosy. Sometimes parents are guilty of letting their kids overload them, and persistent carrying of heavy backpacks can affect your child’s overall posture.

If you’re to abide by the specifications of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), your child’s backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 per cent of their body weight.

According to Jaime Quinn (DPT), Professional Physical Therapy partner and regional clinical director, NYC, there is much available research that points to the effects of carrying heavy backpacks in the long run.


She explains, “Wearing a heavy backpack for prolonged periods may cause excessive strain on one’s neck, back and shoulders. Over time, muscles may fatigue, and the wearer may fall into poor posture, which may lead to muscle imbalances, which, if long-term, may cause an increased risk of injury.”

Effects of heavy backpacks on the spine

Children are free spirits, so they play with so much energy and without a care in the world. In the course of playing, they can develop back pain, but another thing that is usually responsible for back pain is the heavy backpacks they carry. Below are the effects of these heavy backpacks.

  • Chronic back pain

Over some time, carrying heavy backpacks can bring about chronic back pain for your kids. Not just back pain but neck pain and shoulder discomfort all come from carrying heavy backpacks.  Also, there’s a soreness to the muscles on the child’s shoulders, especially if the backpack straps are slim.

  • Bad posture

When children carry heavy backpacks they tend to lean forward to try to compensate for the weight they’re feeling behind. Sometimes it may be to ease the discomfort of backpack straps. So they lean forward to try and give the shoulders some rest. The more serious effect of this is that the child may develop an unnatural alignment, causing severe back pain.

  • Loss of sensation

For easy and free circulation, nerves have to be free. When a child carries a backpack with narrow straps for a long time, the straps dig into the skin, affecting circulation. This can make the child lose sensation in the hands, plus numbness and a tingling sensation.

What should parents do?

  • When buying a backpack, make sure you pick one that has wider straps.
  • A good backpack should have a padded back so that no object can poke the child’s back.
  • Buy backpacks that are already light so that the weight isn’t too much when the child puts their items in it.
  • Encourage the child to use the backpack’s waist belt. This helps with weight distribution.
  • Before leaving home, make sure the child is wearing both straps.
  • Encourage the child to relieve themselves of the backpack when they get to school. They should use their lockers instead of moving around with the backpack all day.
  • Lighten the load. This is very important. No matter how comfortably designed a backpack is, it’s always safer to lighten the load.


If your child complains of back pain, numbness of the hands and shoulders, or weakness of arms, please see a physiotherapist.

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