How Heavy Should my Child’s Backpack Be?

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Parents often cringe to see their children bent under the weight of a book-filled backpack. From watching, it seems obvious that children shouldn’t be carrying around too much weight in their backpacks. The excess weight causes them to bend and stick their heads forward. However, many children don’t complain of discomfort. The question remains for parents: what amount of weight is safe for a child to carry in a backpack?

In a small 2012 study of children aged 8-11, chiropractors evaluated how backpacks affect children’s vertebral alignment and overall comfort. After an initial vertebral measurement, children were given backpacks of either 10%, 15% or 20% of their body weight. They walked freely for 6 minutes. Then, the chiropractor measured their craniovertebral angle (CVA) and asked them to describe how they felt. When the children had the 15% and 20% body weight backpacks, their heads were pushed forward. This effect was visible in the CVA measurement. In this group, nearly 50% of the children reported discomfort. Much of this pain was centered around the neck.

Although this was a small study, it does suggest that children should carry no more than 10% of their body weight in a backpack. This means that a 70 pound child should not carry more than 7 lbs in his backpack. Although 7 lbs may seem like a lot of weight, the mass of books quickly adds up. Even paperback novels weigh nearly one pound. Textbooks are even more massive. Children also often carry lunches, water, and various school needs like pencils and paper. The 10% limit is very easy to overcome. Parents would have to watch carefully to make sure that one day’s work did not exceed this limit.

Another alternative is to purchase a rolling backpack. Much like a carry-on suitcase, rolling backpacks have two wheels and a handle. With these backpacks, children do not have to bear the weight of the books on their back. Instead, they can keep a better posture by standing up straight and rolling their bags behind them. It is probably still a good practice to limit how much weight is in a roller bag. However, it is likely that children will be able to accommodate more than 10% of their body weight in a roller backpack without discomfort.

If you believe that you child is suffering from neck pain due to a heavy backpack, you could visit a chiropractor to get an analysis. The chiropractor will talk to your child and ask about her backpack. Some measurements, such as the craniovertebral angle (CVA) might also be taken. To learn more about the impact of backpacks on children’s posture, feel free to call to schedule an appointment at Atlanta Chiropractic and Wellness.

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