Backpacks and Back Health

Too many children are wearing backpacks that are causing them discomfort and potentially creating permanent problems. Heavy or incorrectly fitted backpacks can lead to forward head posture, extension of the neck, rounded shoulders, forward torso bending at the low back and hips, and extension of the knees. Symptoms of a problem include neck pain, shoulder pain, low back pain, hip pain, and knee pain.


  • Shoulders: Heavy loads on the shoulders can potentially lead to joint misalignments of the cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine and the upper/lower extremities. Other symptomatology may include muscle tightness, strain and altered biomechanics
  • Back and hips: Heavy loads on the lumbar spine (low back) will cause forward leaning to compensate for the weight. Forward leaning will potentially result in low to mid back pain, muscle tightness, altered biomechanics. Your child’s hips may also become sore from the forward bending.
  • Knees: Your child’s knees may become sore due to altered gait (walking) patterns from carrying the excess weight of the backpack.


  • The first thing to check is the backpack itself. Use the following guidelines to select an appropriate backpack:
    • Sizing: Choose a backpack that is age appropriate for proper sizing. Look for lightweight material.
    • Shoulder straps: Purchase a backpack with dual shoulder straps.
    • Lumbar support: A backpack with proper lumbar support is important so the backpack stays close to the body.
    • Proper torso length: It is important to have the backpack extend no more than two inches past the waistline.
    • Waist strap: I also highly recommend a waist strap and preferably one that is thick to help distribute the weight of the back pack.
    • A backpack with many small pockets will help distribute the load.
    • A roller bag is the best option, if possible.
  • Next, check how the bag is being worn and encourage your child to use it in a healthy way:
    • Your child should wear both shoulder straps at all times in order to avoid excess stress or strain on one side of the spine.
    • Keep the weight of the load closer to the child’s body so he/she will be able to stand taller and avoid forward leaning.
    • Do not overload backpack. I recommend only taking the books needed for school that day.
  • Regular Chiropractic adjustments of the spine and extremities help with biomechanical dysfunction from joint restrictions that can lead to pain and discomfort.

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Dr. Shane Ott - Chiropractor


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