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Backpack Weight & Kids

With the school year right around the corner, it is important to discuss something that affects our students that is not frequently thought about: backpacks. Most kids only care about having one of their favorite characters or teams on their pack, but what parents should care about is how the backpack affects their health. It may not be obvious, but backpacks could be playing a large role in your child’s body development. A study looking at a backpack’s weight and its effect on a kid’s gait found that loads exceeding 10% of a child’s body weight decreased their stride length, step time, single foot support time, and increased their two foot support time (1). Now you might be thinking, “Big deal, who cares if it is just slowing down the time it takes for them to walk?” However, what you are missing is why this is happening, and in turn, what these findings also affect. With an increased loading of the spine, you are really changing the biomechanics of their entire kinetic chain (muscles coordinated to work together) from head to toe. As one study found, carrying school supplies on one’s back causes significant changes in one's body posture, predominantly in the frontal plane (2). With only 10% of the carrier’s body weight recommended, take the time to do some quick math. At 100 lbs, a child should only be carrying 10 pounds in their pack!

Another study looking at backpack weight and its association with musculoskeletal (MSK) pain found kids wearing a heavier backpack with a larger percentage to their own body weight had a significant association with MSK pain (3). Just like many adults, kids with altered biomechanics can develop poor posture and in turn spinal pain. So there is something to having a backpack that is the right fit for your student! Here are a few tips to make sure your child’s spine will live its healthiest life:

  • Backpacks should not exceed 10% of your body weight!

  • Use both of your straps

  • Make sure the bottom of the pack does not go below the top of their hips

  • If you have to wait for bus for a long period of time, give your body a rest and take it off

If you have any other questions about this or want to be sure your child’s backpack is not doing any damage, call or come in to see Dr. Kennedy


  1. Tomal, P., Fryzowicz, A., Skorupska, E., & Dworak, L. B. (2022). Influence of School Backpack Load as a Variable Affecting Gait Kinematics among Seven-Year-Old Children. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(7), 3843.

  2. Mrozkowiak, M., & Stępień-Słodkowska, M. (2022). The impact of a school backpack's weight, which is carried on the back of a 7-year-old students of both sexes, on the features of body posture in the frontal plane. BMC sports science, medicine & rehabilitation, 14(1), 57.

  3. Sankaran, S., John, J., Patra, S. S., Das, R. R., & Satapathy, A. K. (2021). Prevalence of Musculoskeletal Pain and Its Relation With Weight of Backpacks in School-Going Children in Eastern India. Frontiers in pain research (Lausanne, Switzerland), 2, 684133.

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