Backpack Safety

The amount of heavy books and gear our children carry to school is simply overwhelming. It seems our kids are carrying more and more weight in their packs, as they set off for the school day with books, gym clothes, and gear for sports and extracurricular activities.


A 2012 study by physical therapy students at the Mass College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences examined the effects of various backpack loads on elementary schoolchildren’s posture and postural compensations as demonstrated by a change in forward head position. Digital photographs were taken of each subject standing without a backpack, and then with the loaded backpack before and after walking 6 minutes at free walking speed. This was repeated over three consecutive weeks using backpacks containing randomly assigned weights of 10%, 15%, or 20% body weight of each respective subject. The craniovertebral angle was measured using digitizing software, recorded and analyzed.

The subjects demonstrated immediate and statistically significant changes in craniovertebral angle, indicating increased forward head positions upon donning the backpacks containing 15% and 20% body weight. Following the walking of 6 minutes, the CVA demonstrated further statistically significant changes for all backpack loads indicating increased forward head postures. For the 15 & 20% of body weight conditions, more than 50% of the subjects reported discomfort after walking, with the neck as the primary location of reported pain.

The study concludes that primary schoolchildren should carry no more than 10% of their body weight in their backpacks. For a 60 lb elementary school student, that is a mere 6 lbs.

Are you wondering if your child’s backpack is keeping your child’s spine safe while carrying all that weight? A well-fitting backpack can save your child’s back from undue strain and future posture problems. Watch Dr. Steve on Around Town, talking backpack safety, and learn more about how to fit and pack a backpack so it is safe for your child to carry.

Around Town 081910 from Groton Channel on Vimeo.

At Community Chiropractic, we offer free backpack fittings every year for our patients and the general public. A fitting involves weighing a backpack (filled as you would fill it for a typical school day), checking the pack for safety (Are the shoulder straps wide enough? Is the pack too big?) and teaching your child how to pack it so weight is distributed properly.

Book an appointment for a screening the next time you come in for an adjustment! It only takes a few minutes, but could save your child a lifetime of back and postural issues.