Backpack Safety

by:  Rajesh B. Makim, M.D., F.A.A.O.S. 

Backpacks allow the convenience of using both hands while carrying all the supplies and books necessary for school.  However, research has shown that carrying too much weight in a backpack can cause shoulder and back problems.

Carrying a heavy backpack can possibly:

  • Strain back, neck and shoulder muscles
  • Worsen or aggravate scoliosis (an abnormal curvature of the spine)
  • Contribute to poor posture
  • Cause long term back problems such as disc degeneration and arthritis
  • Cut off circulation or press on nerves causing numbness, tingling and weakness
  • Increase the risk of falling and hurting oneself or others

Basic guidelines for backpack safety:

  • Students should carry no more than 15% of their weight in a backpack
  • Use both shoulder straps and a waist strap if available
  • Use a backpack with wide, padded straps that do not dig in
  • Use a backpack that, when adjusted, sits at least 2 inches above the waist
  • Load books from heaviest---closest to the body to lightest---farthest from the body
  • Discourage carrying unnecessary items
  • Allow frequent trips to lockers or adequate time between classes to switch books
  • Consider using a wheeled device to carry books

How much is too much? 

Use the following table to estimate how much the pack should weigh:

Student Weight            Backpack Weight

50 lbs                              5 - 7.5 lbs

80 lbs                              8 - 12 lbs

100 lbs                           10 - 15 lbs

120 lbs                           12 - 18 lbs

150 lbs                           15 - 23 lbs

To consult with one of our doctors at Orthopedic Associates of Port Huron, please call (810) 985-4900 or click on the Appointment Request button.