Could our backpacks be killing us?

A growing concern for parents over the past years has been about back pain in children due to the use of a heavy backpack. A reported 14,000 children go to the doctor or a physical therapist for back pains each year – could this be because of backpacks?

As a student in high school, my backpack was always abnormally heavy yet at my school everyone would always “one-strap it”(only carry their backpacks on one side), causing one side of my body to account for the weight of the backpack. I began to question if this was healthy for my body or not because it was causing me physical pain. Apparently, the part of one’s back that is what to be particularly concerned about is the lumbar spine. The lumbar spine is the lower vertebra in one’s spine that is most affected by weight.

In a study done to measure if backpacks had an effect on the lumbar spine in children, the lumbar spine was measured for the first time with a magnetic resonance imaging scanner. The children in the study were all healthy prior to this experiment.

Hypothesis: The weight of one’s backpack increases disc compression and lumbar curvature.

It was found that 92% of students usually carry about 10%-22% of their body weight in their backpack. The study used three boys and five girls around the age of 11, and measured the effects on each child with a 4, 8, and 12 kg backpack.

Results: The hypothesis was correct. The heavier the backpack weight, the worse effect it had on the disc compression of the child. This means that backpack weight accounts for the majority of pain children face when it comes to their back. It may not be killing us, but we need to pay more attention to what we are carrying in our backpacks. If it isn’t something you are going to be using in class – don’t bring it with you.

7 thoughts on “Could our backpacks be killing us?

  1. Meaghan Elizabeth Simone

    As a person that has the notorious 50 lb book bag and has been backpacking, I can absolutely agree with this. Heaving bags can seriously hurt your back, shoulders, neck, etc. In response to the comment by Alexis Paige, that is a really good point to make. Children who are still developing and wearing such heavy bags are definitely more at risk and can cause even more annoying issues in the future – for ex., I have a friend who wore heavy bags basically all her life, and her doctor said her scoliosis mightt actually have been a result from that.

  2. Ajay Shethna

    This was always more of a problem for my brother than me, I chose not to carry all my books and such in my backpack trying to keep the weight as low as possible but I used to watch my brother lug around a heavy backpack that looked like it was about to snap his spine in half. He now consistently has back problems but I can’t directly say its backpack related since there could be multiple causes of that. However I can say that when he gave me his backpack to hold my back hurt for a week and too much stress on your spine is never a good thing.

  3. Mansi M Patel

    As someone that used to have slight scoliosis, my heavy backpack only contributed to already existing back pain. In middle school, before I had my spine realigned, I could not bear the heavy load of books on my shoulders. An option would have been those rolly backpacks, had my school not outlawed them because of accidents caused by people tripping over them. There really is no solution to this problem… except perhaps teachers assigning less homework?

  4. Hannah Elizabeth Welty

    This is definitely a concern especially among elementary kids with innumerable pounds of books on thier back. Last year, my sister in the 6th grade carried a heavier backpack around than I did! Could the answer be online text books like those that are available to college students? Why would the smaller kids have the most to lug around? E-textbooks could be the answer!!

  5. Melissa Lee

    This is definitely a problem that many students face today. I remember in middle school and high school I was forced to bring back and forth all of my textbooks. This article points out that one shoulder could even become higher than the other from carrying a heavy bag. I feel like this might start to progressively change as hard textbooks start to change to online textbooks. Students will no longer have to carry all of their textbooks in their backpack and won’t do any more damage to their backs.

  6. Allison Maria Magee

    This is a topic that has always concerned me. In high school we basically had to carry around all of our books and everything in our backpack. I believe that my back has gotten very damaged due to the heavy backpack that I carried for many years. I find this abstract very interesting because it suggests two solutions to this problem. First, lockers should be readily available to all. And second, students should minimize what they hold in their bags in an effort to make it lighter.

  7. Alexis Paige

    Do you think that just children are affected by heavy backpacks because they’re still growing? As adults (or close to it) should we also worry about the strain on our backs? It could also be the opposite where adults should worry more because they are not as young and cannot bounce back from the strain like a child can? Just wanted to know your thoughts!

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