Backpack Syndrome

The use of backpacks has risen dramatically over the past 10 years. Some studies have shown backpack usage to be greater than 90% among school-aged children ages 8-17. As a result, many complaints of back, shoulder, and neck pain have increased secondary to the use of these devices.

Wearing a backpack properly allows the back and stomach muscles to support the backpack's weight. But when the bag is overloaded, lifted incorrectly, or carried over one shoulder, the soft tissues in the back become strained. Daily repetition of these types of actions promotes incorrect posture by damaging the spinal column and creating muscular imbalance.


girl carrying backpack
Wrong! This backpack is too heavy.


The solutions to reducing spinal stress caused by book bags are as follows:

  1. Backpacks should be loaded to a maximum of 10% to 15% of the total body weight of the person.
  2. Use both shoulder straps that are padded and adjusted to carry the pack no lower than 2-3 inches above the waist.
  3. Educate correct lifting techniques of bending at the knees and lifting with the legs while donning and doffing the backpack.
  4. Students should clean out the bag once a week and make frequent trips between classes to replace needed materials.
  5. Participate in a regular exercise program to maintain strong and flexible back and trunk musculature.

Parents: Educate your children about the importance of postural awareness and proper lifting techniques. Prevention of an incorrectly carried backpack will lead to your child's healthy spine today and in the future.

Updated on: 09/08/11