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National School Backpack Awareness Day: How Backpacks Can Influence Back Pain in Children

Smiling girl in casual clothes with backpack and books.

The backpack is an essential part of your child’s school life. School-going children use backpacks to carry everything they need in school. Unfortunately, all that weight could be causing more harm than good. Most students have bags far too heavy for them, which results in muscle pain, sore joints, and back issues. With proper form and weight, backpacks help carry things for long periods. Improper backpack use, on the other hand, causes chronic back pain. National School Backpack Awareness Day is all about raising awareness and helping students wear backpacks safely.

What is National School Backpack Awareness Day?

There is a growing number of children sustaining backpack-related injuries. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) dedicates a day to backpack safety awareness every third Wednesday of September. The day is set aside for parents, teachers, educators, and kids alike. It educates them on the serious health issues of heavy or improperly worn backpacks.

Backpack Awareness Day –
MeOTA Maine Occupational Therapy Assoc.

Why is it so important to address back pain in children? There are more than seventy-nine million students in the US carrying backpacks to school every day. Lower back pain is a common complaint among children and teens. According to research, chronic back pain has increased by more than one hundred percent over the last decade among adults. 

Lower back pain is also an increasingly common complaint in children and teens. Roughly thirty in one hundred children and adolescents will experience back pain at some point. Although back pain can severely affect your overall well-being, very few seek medical help. Lower back pain begins in childhood and increases as a child matures. By the age of fifteen, twenty to seventy percent of school kids will complain of back pain. These children go on to experience back pain even into their adult years. 

What Causes Back Pain in Children?

Lower back pain is not a disease but a symptom that has many causes. A doctor will diagnose the underlying causes of the symptoms of back pain.

Group of elementary school kids running at school on national school backpack awareness day.
Lower Back Pain Is A Common Complaint Among Children And Teens (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Some of the causes of back pain in children include:  

  • Muscle strain, overuse, or injury
  • Strenuous outdoor activities for kids
  • Muscle weakness and imbalances
  • Higher body mass index (BMI), which could point to an overweight or obese child
  • An infection or tumor characterized by night-time fevers and weight loss

There is no one culprit to blame for back pain in children. While heavy backpacks and poor posture can cause neck and back pain, it’s not that simple. Everyday activities like spending too much time watching television can cause back pain. Over-engaging in sports can also magnify existing back pain. Pinpointing the exact cause of back pain in your child will help you to manage it. 

Children’s Backpacks: Symptoms of Lower Back Pain

With so many school-age children carrying heavy backpacks, it’s essential to be aware of the symptoms of lower back pain. Backpack overload leads to straining of the neck, back, and shoulders. Poor weight distribution and heavy books put pressure on the lower back. As a kid matures, the size of the backpack also increases. A bigger backpack means heavier weight loads.

Girl wearing casual clothes suffering of backache.
Backpack Overload Leads To Straining Of The Neck, Back, and Shoulders (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Carrying a heavy backpack for a long time causes the back to compensate for the heavy load, which can result in: 

  • Distortion of the natural curve of the lower and middle back, which leads to muscle strain and irritation of the spine and rib cage. 
  • Rounding of the shoulders. 
  • Forward leaning that can affect balance, leaving them prone to falls and injuries. 

How to Minimize Back Pain in Children

Lower back pain usually goes away on its own in a few weeks. Chronic back pain can, however, manifest itself even through adulthood. Here are six ways you can wear backpacks safely to minimize back pain in children. 

Wear Both Backpack Straps

Many children carry backpacks on one shoulder, which forces the back to compensate for the uneven weight. The spine leans to one side, stressing the ribs, middle back, and lower back on one side. Over time, this strains the neck and shoulders, leading to lower back pain. Encourage your child to wear both straps of the backpack.

Elementary school kids with backpacks smiling at the camera.
Encourage Your Child To Wear Both Straps Of The Backpack (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Don’t Overload the Backpack

The recommended backpack weight load is less than fifteen percent of the body weight. Even when you wear the backpack correctly, the extra weight forces you to lean forward. This ends up affecting the natural curve of the lower back. The excess weight can also round the shoulders, contributing to chronic back problems.

Think About the Type of Backpack

The type of backpack a child carries will contribute to lower back problems. When you’re buying a backpack for your child, it’s a good idea to complete a backpack comparison. Backpacks with wider straps are better. Narrow straps lead to arm numbness and tingling which, over time, weakens the hands. 

Use a Backpack with a Waist Belt

A waist belt helps distribute the backpack weight. In turn, this ensures that your child doesn’t lean forward or to one side, no matter how heavy the backpack is.

Support Proper Posture

Kids are prone to poor posture. Encouraging your child to assume good posture will help prevent back pain in the future. Try reminding children to stand up straight if you see them slouching.

Teach Stretching and Core Strength Exercises

When your child is not at school, encourage them to stretch every few hours. This is especially important after spending hours in front of a computer or television screen. Over-sitting leads to tight and tense muscles, which manifest as lower back pain. Standing or using an Epitomie Fitness VIBRA foam roller can relieve muscle soreness.

Back pain is common and goes away in a few weeks. But your child may be at risk of experiencing chronic back pain. According to various studies, a heavy backpack is one of the biggest culprits of back pain in children. If you don’t treat the pain, it could manifest into their adult years. This National School Backpack Awareness Day, take backpack safety seriously. Ignoring the problem could end up causing irreversible damage to your child’s back. By minimizing the risk of lower back pain and raising awareness of backpacks, you can set the foundation for good physical health in your children.