Back to School: Don’t overpack kids’ backpack or you could crack their back!


August 13th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

An expert on back pain says Iowa kids need to avoid stuffing their backpacks when they return to school. Dr. Aaron Rector, a chiropractor in Johnston, says don’t put more than ten-percent of your body weight in the backpack. So, a 100-pound kid shouldn’t be carrying more than ten pounds. Dr. Rector says choose backpacks carefully.  “Bigger is not always better,” Rector says. “If you have a first grader, they don’t need a backpack the size that will fit high school-sized textbooks. You want to get a size- and age-appropriate backpack for your child.” Some Iowa schools are now providing laptops or computer tablets for students — or they’re being required for some courses. That can make it even harder to stick with that ten-percent of your body weight rule.

“The average laptop weighs about seven pounds,” Rector says. “You could have a laptop in the backpack and then throw textbooks and things in there, that complicates things, adding more weight to the child’s backpack.” Parents need to watch for warning signs their children may be carrying too much weight in their backpacks, things like red marks on their shoulders from the weight. Also, if they get any numbing or tingling or if their hands or fingers fall asleep, that’s a red flag.

“You will start to see the child slouch forward in an effort to take pressure off of their back and off of their spine,” Rector says. “You will see their shoulders start to round forward and they’ll start to lean their head forward as if they’re going to bring their face towards the ground.” A federal study found backpack-related injuries among children and teens have risen 41-percent in the past five years. The study says more than 14-thousand people between the ages of 5 and 19 were treated for backpack injuries nationwide last year. The total cost for those injuries was nearly 29-million dollars.