School Backpacks and Back Pain

Although there is a relationship between school backpacks and back pain, the solution isn’t to avoid backpacks, but to use them properly. Also, it’s essential that children play sports to ensure stronger muscles and bones.
School Backpacks and Back Pain

Last update: 14 February, 2020

Nowadays, many people believe that school backpacks and back pain are closely related. This is true, but it’s a reality that has different nuances.

First, the problem isn’t the backpack itself, but its use. It’s clear that when children incorrectly carry a lot of weight of any kind, this can affect their muscles and bones. Although school backpacks and back pain are realities that are often related, what really fails are the factors of weight and load distribution.

In addition to this, you should remember that backpacks are an item people use every day. This continued used requires necessary measures to protect the body. In this article, we’ll explore the relationship between school backpacks and back pain.

School backpacks and back pain

Children carrying backpacks.

Several studies talk about school backpacks and back pain. Virtually all agree that about half of children under 15 have perceived discomfort associated with the use of their school backpack.

There’s also a consensus on the fact that it isn’t healthy for a child to carry a weight greater than a range of between 10 and 15% of their body weight. In fact, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science, and Research forbade children from carrying backpacks that exceed 10% of their body weight. In Germany, there’s a similar regulation.

Also, in recent years, several studies established a relationship between school backpacks and various types of neck and shoulder injuries, back pain, spinal curvature, posture, and lung function, among others. The issue has become important due to the prevalence of these problems in children, which were very unusual in the past.

However, some experts have warned that the rise of these problems in children isn’t only due to the use of backpacks. Other factors also intervene. In this regard, the most prominent of them is children’s sedentary lifestyle, which weakens their muscular-skeletal system.

Data to consider

A girl fixing her backpack.

A study conducted in the Netherlands found an inverse relationship between the practice of some sports and back pain in children. In other words, the more hours children dedicate to playing sports, the less back pain.

Another study, also conducted in the Netherlands, indicated a very interesting fact: in many children with back pain, signs of psychosomatic problems were also found. Emotional, familial or individual factors tend to be connected with children who suffer from back pain more often.

Regardless of this, excess weight in school backpacks and their improper use can indeed lead to different problems. Some of these are:

  • Muscle tension in the lower back area. This occurs because the child leans their body forward when their backpack is too heavy.
  • Spine misalignment, mainly at a cervical level. This occurs for the same reason as in the previous case.
  • Increased lumbar lordosis.
  • Uneven shoulders. When a child carries their backpack on one shoulder, their risk of spinal curvature or scoliosis increases.


The first recommendation to consider is to promote the practice of sports in children. Physical inactivity isn’t good for anyone, much less so in children, as they’re developing. Additionally, you should take some preventive measures regarding school backpacks, such as:

  • Buy a backpack with suitable dimensions. The backpack shouldn’t be below the waist and its width mustn’t exceed shoulder width.
  • Make sure there are suitable straps. They must be padded and should be adjustable to ensure that the backpack remains attached to the back. Experts recommended backpacks with grips so they can be lifted off the floor.
  • Consider a compartmentalized interior. When the inside of a backpack is compartmentalized, the objects move less, and this provides stability.
  • Avoid overloading at all costs. Children should completely avoid overloading. It’s the most harmful factor.
  • Distribute and transport items properly. The heaviest items should go closer to the body. Children should carry their backpacks on both shoulders.
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  • Calvo-Muñoz, I., & Gómez-Conesa, A. (2012). Asociación entre las mochilas escolares y el dolor de espalda. Revisión sistemática. Fisioterapia, 34(1), 31-38.