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guidelines for backpacks

Scientific studies have revealed a 30 percent increase in back pain in children since 1990 due, at least in part, to carrying backpacks. Back pain is pervasive in our society. "Eight percent of all Canadians will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Fifty percent of us will suffer from low back pain this year alone," says Dr. Don Nixdorf, executive director for the British Columbia Chiropractic Association. "Low-back pain is the most common health problem experienced by working Canadians today, and it is a condition which costs our country’s economy over $800 million annually in lost wages and productivity. For work-related injuries alone the cost of back claims is $140 million per year."

 "Much of this suffering is brought on by bad habits initiated during our younger years - such as carrying overweight backpacks to school. The improper use of backpacks can lead to muscle imbalance that could turn to chronic back and neck injuries."

The British Columbia Chiropractic Association suggests the following tips to help prevent the needless pain that backpack misuse could cause students. Now that backpacks have begun to replace briefcases in the work place, you, too, might want to follow this advice.


Across the province, thousands of elementary, high-school and post-secondary students race to the school bus or scurry to their classes with overstuffed backpacks slung over their shoulders.

While carrying a backpack to school each morning might seem harmless enough, it can cause painful back and neck problems for students who don’t carry them properly.




  1. Make sure your child’s backpack weighs no more than five to ten percent of his or her body weight. If the backpack is heavier, it will cause your child to start bending forward in an attempt to support the weight on his or her back rather than using the straps for support on the shoulders.

  2. A backpack with individualized compartments will help in positioning the contents most effectively. While packing the backpack, make sure that pointy or bulky object are packed away from the back area.

  3. It is important that your child wear both shoulder straps. Lugging the backpack around by one shoulder strap can cause a disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms as well as low-back pain.

  4. Padded straps are very important. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable, and usually dig into your child’s shoulders.

  5. The shoulder straps should also be adjustable, so the backpack can be fitted to your child’s body. Shoulder straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain.

  6. If the backpack is still too heavy, talk to your child’s teacher. It might be possible to leave the heaviest books at school, and bring home only the lighter handout materials or work books.


Chiropractic care can help...

If you or your child experience any pain or discomfort in the shoulders, arms, legs or back, contact this office to assess any adverse effects resulting from backpack use. Chiropractic doctors are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages, and the type of treatment for children is gentle. In addition, chiropractic doctors can prescribe exercises designed to help children develop strong muscles, and provide instruction in good nutrition, posture and sleeping habits.

small girl with large backpack
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