Many chiropractic patients ask the question “Should my child be carrying a backpack to school, and if so how much weight should they carry in it?” There are a lot of factors that go into answering this question, and for simplicity I’ve found a research article to help us out.
The study analyzed 1403 school children ages 12-17 with 92.2% wearing backpacks with two shoulder straps. Their research was based on the standard that students should not carry loads exceeding 10% of their own body weight. In other words, if the student weighed 100lbs then they should limit their backpack to 10lbs or less. Considering that a textbook and/or laptop weighs on average 3.5 lbs, the actual weight of the bag, and all their other supplies it is easy to surpass this 10% limit.
To no surprise 61.4% of students wore backpacks exceeding the 10% rule, and 18.1% exceeded 15% of their body weight. The results also showed that the 25% of students with the heaviest body weight to backpack weight ratio had an increased risk of back pain. The most obvious finding was that those students carrying the heaviest backpacks had a 50% greater risk of back pain. All of these findings support the 10% rule.
When looking beyond the 10% rule, this question can become even harder to answer when you factor in different brands and models of backpacks. Considering the many brands this isn’t practical to be able to recommend certain models when the styles change year to year.
Therefore, a general rule is to limit the weight of the backpack to 10% of your child’s weight. They should utilize their lockers at school as much as possible, so make sure their teachers are giving them adequate time to go to their lockers between classes. With all they are required to carry they need a backpack, and therefore wearing a backpack for a teenager can be a part of their style and fashion. The alternative is a rolling backpack, which would be much better for their back, but not necessarily popular. While there are many other factors, always remember to keep them active and eating a balanced diet. Most importantly, make sure to have them regularly checked by your chiropractor.
Yours in health,
Arch Dis Child 2012; 97:730-732. Doi:10.1136/archdischild-2011-301253