The Danger of Extra Backpack Weight

Have you ever felt like your back was hurting just by looking at your child's backpack? I am often impressed by the amount of weight my kids can carry around on their backs, but at the same time, I know it is not good for them.

 I went to visit my friend Dr. Scott Clark from Clark Integrated Medical Solutions to learn more. Dr. Clark is a Chiropractor whose practice also offers medical care and rehabilitation to its patients of all ages, including children. Needless to say, he is very well-qualified to teach me about the dangers of excessive backpack weight on developing spines. 

According to Dr. Clark, heavy backpacks cause children to bend their spine forward to offset the weight. I loved the way he explained the problem with this by saying, "as the twig is bent, so the tree grows."  In other words, the stress placed on a growing spine will dictate the way that spine ultimately develops. This could lead to obvious symptoms like pain and discomfort but also to long-term problems with behavior, concentration, sleep, and other health issues. These not-so-obvious effects surprised me.  

What shocked me the most, though, is what is considered "heavy".  Dr. Clark informed me that the American Chiropractic Association has recently decreased its recommended backpack weight limit to 10% or less of a child's body weight.  That means my first grader should not be carrying any more than five pounds in her backpack. This is especially concerning because I know that at any given time she is likely to be carrying five pounds of playground rocks in her backpack leaving little to no room for her actual school supplies. 

Dr. Clark gave me some great tips to share with you. He recommends the following:

  • Select a backpack with padded straps and a padded back. If the backpack has a chest strap, that is even better.-Carry backpacks with both straps, instead of just one.

  • Make sure backpack straps are tight and the top of the backpack is situated at the top of the shoulders

  • Lighten the load! The backpack should not weigh more than 10% of your child's body weight.

Again, I was surprised to find out that this common situation can go wrong in many other ways, but it doesn't have to.

Following these simple tips from Dr. Clark can help you and your child avoid a plethora of other uncomfortable side-effects and keep your child feeling and performing his or her best.