If you’ve ever watched children walking to school, you’ve seen that some of them look like they’ve packed for the entire year, not just the school day. Carrying overloaded backpacks is not the exception today, but the rule and it can put some young backs in jeopardy.

A backpack can be a great help to school children, but it needs to be packed properly to avoid a lifetime of hurt, suggests Chiro One Wellness Centers. As the new school year approaches, parents and children planning their "back-to-school" lists are urged to keep backpack safety in mind.

“If too heavy or worn incorrectly, backpacks can strain muscles and joints and cause serious back pain,” says Dr. Andy Eichorst, D.C., former Chiropractic Director of Chiro One Wellness Center of Frankfort, Kentucky. “Parents take note: backpack weight is becoming an increasing problem, and studies show that heavy backpacks can lead to both back pain and poor posture.” In fact, backpack-related injuries resulted in 7,300 emergency room visits in 2006, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. 

Eichorst and Chiro One Wellness Centers advise everyone—especially the forty million teens who carry backpacks to school to carry no more than ten to fifteen percent of their body weight in backpacks. Avoid back pain and back injury by following these suggestions: 

  • Select packs with heavily padded shoulder straps and lumbar support. 
  • Carry only what’s needed and get organized. 
  • Pack heavier items closest to the back. 
  • Pack items in compartments so the weight is evenly distributed. 
  • Use both shoulder straps to distribute weight evenly across the back unless it is a one-shoulder pack. 
  • Tighten the straps to keep the backpack close to the body. Make sure the backpack does not extend below the lower back. 

Squat down, bending at the knees, not at the waist, when lifting or lowering a heavy backpack and maintain good posture. If you do notice that your child is experiencing pain or discomfort from backpack use, Eichorst recommends that you call your Chiropractor. “Chiropractors are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages and will use a gentler type of treatment with children,” states Eichorst. “In addition, Chiropractors can also prescribe exercises designed to help children develop strong muscles, along with habits on good nutrition, posture and sleeping habits.”