August 17th, 2012
04:16 AM ET

How to shoulder a backpack

By Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN) – Pediatric orthopedist Dr. David Marshall is concerned about the weight that students shoulder from their backpacks.

"We're starting to see more and more back pain complaints in the doctors' and the sports medicine offices, and the question is:  Is there a correlation between backpacks and back pain?"

It's true that they're a campus standard when it comes to carrying books, notebooks, computers, papers and pencils around.  But experts say a backpack's weight should be limited to about 10 – 15% of a student's body weight.

If a traditional backpack exceeds that, you may want to consider a rolling backpack (the kind that looks like luggage).

Those who do carry their school supplies on their shoulders can take a few steps to better distribute the weight.

First, cinch up the straps.  Dr. Marshall says a backpack's weight should never be lower than the waistline; you want it high up on your shoulders.

He also suggests using both straps to make sure both sides of your torso are carrying the backpack evenly.  And if yours comes with an abdominal strap, it's a good idea to fasten that too.

Given, it may give you a bit of a hiker look (even if the hike is only from English to social studies), but a well-placed backpack can help you avoid neck and spine problems either now or down the road.

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Filed under: College • Elementary school • High school • Middle school • Safety
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. SEO that gets you noticed

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    August 21, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  2. RandelFlag

    Back Pack? You had back packs! We had to carry our books in a used milk crate Hummpp Back pack!! and we glad to have it.

    August 20, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  3. se

    maybe the parents need to carry their kids books to school. God forbid, a child has to use their muscles

    August 20, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  4. CB Gilbert

    One solution to heavy backpacks is to clean them out each day. I have worked with ages 3-9 for 20+ years and have seen many overloaded backpacks. At these ages parents need to check the backpack every evening for notes, homework, the daily reading book, etc. Children don't remember the field trip notes, nurses notes, etc that need to be read. If the weather turns warm (I live in a southern state on the coast) take the jackets out of the backpack. Read the daily folder, take out the classwork. I've found 1st of the year info folders at the winter break! Teachers do not have time to clean out your child's backpack. And please wash them out occasionally. I've smelled kerosene from heaters the parents use to heat their homes on the backpacks, cat urine, dog urine, cigarette and other smoke on them. As to rolling packs, they are a hazard. Children trip over the packs, they can't control how the packs roll and cause congestion in the halls and on the buses. One school I work at has 800+ students age 3-7 grades pre k to 1st. Can you imagine how much confusion this many rolling packs would cause?

    August 20, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  5. Steve

    Don't kids have lockers any more?

    August 20, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  6. sangita

    Back in the day (late 90's) my school bag weighed a ton. I commuted to school. I use to walk to the elementary, middle school high school and then college i commuted by bus and train so I was always was walking with my back pack. There was no easy solution back then but now there is but school system need to start address the issue. Can kids get hurt from carry around these heavy hard cover text books? YES! I Have a12 year old twig of daughter who I think will snap in half one day from carrying such a heavy load. Her load of heavy books has not changed since my day but her commute to school isn't so bad. Problem is school system haven't thought of this as a issue.

    August 20, 2012 at 7:42 am |
  7. Joe Reality Peterson


    August 19, 2012 at 3:56 am |
  8. larago

    My daughters were having problems with very heavy backpacks. Since one has scoliosis, I was really worried. I found this great product called the "Back T Pack." Designed by a physical therapist, it is really great for distributing the weight and taking the load off the back. They're a bit expensive, but I thought worth the investment and they're really well made. It is a shame that these packs weren't shown as an option for the backpacks.

    August 18, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • lisa winters

      My sons school does not allow rolling backpacks. Not sure what to do.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  9. Sonja

    E-readers have not yet made it to my children's suburban district. I thought the problems with backpacks were exaggerated, until I tried my daughter's backpack on. I'm a former shotputter, and I still felt it was a strain. I checked out the backpack.. the books are much bigger than they were in the 70's and 80's. Her math and social studies books are about twice the size mine were, plus there's a required binder–3 inches thick– for organizational purposes, a required planner that's 3/4 of an inch thick, and the language arts texts. The students get a maximum of 3 minutes between classes, so there's no time to drop a book off in the locker, either, as there was when I was a kid. And her middle school dropped our neighborhood from the bus roster to help with the district's budget.

    August 18, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  10. SoArizona

    What ever happened to the breifcase we used to carry.

    August 18, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  11. Randall12

    As e-book readers make their way into the school system, backpacks are becoming a non-issue.

    August 18, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  12. USA

    Mittens Romney you have my vote!

    August 18, 2012 at 5:24 am |
  13. oLD fART

    Is it just me, or is the spelling and grammar of kids really going into the toilet?

    August 17, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • mbluesky

      It's not just you. And it's not just the kids either.

      August 18, 2012 at 8:14 am |
  14. Inky

    American Youth – Exercise so carrying a load on your back will not be a big deal. It will be good experience for later in life when you have to carry your parent's debt.

    August 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  15. joy mayhew

    no because my backbook didnt hurt my back

    August 17, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  16. Garrett Warren

    I don't carry a bookbag. I think its better to carry a binder.

    August 17, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  17. christina brown

    I agree using backpacks for school can be to much because you can hurt your back because you have to much stuff in it.
    I keep my stuff in my looker at school. Yes I think that backpacks can hurt your back.

    August 17, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  18. Rahul patel

    My Backpack Doesn.t Hurt My Back sometimes it gets to Heavy to carry My Back get Hurt

    August 17, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  19. ociel carrillo

    My backpack doesn't hurt my back.

    August 17, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  20. mckensey johnson

    i think that when you wear your bookbag low it makes you back hurt . I normaly wear my back pack low but now that Isaw the video I realize that i need to wear it up on my upper back . I want yall to know that i love watching cnn student news . thanks

    August 17, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  21. Desiree Dominguez

    i agree because thats book pack was heavy and if you will to get hurt your back but its not to good about your bookpack and computer, and everything abot ur bookpack. they are too heavy about your bookpack, because the student do not hurt your back. but you dont want to get hurt about your weight or your body.

    August 17, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  22. Tammy Nash

    I agree that heavy backpacks hurt student's back. It is probably not a good idea to carry all your books around all day. Students really need to keep their books in their locker and only carry the supplies that they need for class in their backpack.

    August 17, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  23. Daniel Than

    I agree that using a backpack that looks like a luggage is a great idea so others dont have to give them self back pain by carrying a bag with lots of heavy books behind their back.

    August 17, 2012 at 9:56 am |