Skip to main content

Back to School Brings Back Pain for Kids Carrying Backpacks

A child happily riding a bike on a peaceful country road

Drs. Katie and Quintin Sleigh of Sleigh Family Chiropractic in Arlington Heights are concerned with the increasing numbers of kids experiencing back pain much earlier in their lives. One common cause of this may be overloaded, improperly worn, improperly sized backpacks. Many kids want to get the backpack that fits their current interests and style. However, Drs. Katie and Quintin warn that caving into their demands may be setting them up for back injury and pain, as well as neck pain and headaches.

Kids carry their backpack to and from school daily as well as through the hallways at school. Several factors contribute to increasing the weight they carry in those heavy backpacks. These factors may include: increased homework loads, less time between classes, increased participation in before and after school activities, and a trend toward removing lockers. Many children carry their entire lockers with multiple textbooks and notebooks, personal items, and supplies in their backpacks on a daily basis.

heavy backpackThe American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends that a backpack weigh no more than 15% of a child’s body weight. Researchers at Simmons College in Massachusetts found in a 2001 study that 55% of 345 children studied, carried backpacks exceeding the recommended weight limit. Another study conducted in 1999 by Negrini, Carabalona, and Sibilla found 34.8% of students carried more than 30% of their body weight in their backpacks at least once during the week!

How does increased backpack weight affect your child?

heavy backpack bad postureA child tends to adopt an altered posture to balance a heavy weight placed on the back. Children lean forward at the waist, round their shoulders, and hold their head in front of their bodies. If they wear their backpack on one shoulder, they also tend to lean to the opposite side of the shoulder the child wears their back pack on. This improper posture puts increased stress and pressure on the joints of the spine as well as the discs between the bones of the spine. Since the spine protects the most important system in the body, the nerve system, this repeated injury causes nerve system irritation that frequently leads to neck pain, back pain, and headaches.

The long term risk of improperly carrying a backpack is the altered posture may become more permanent. Posture will change with repetitive heavy backpack wearing throughout childhood. Drs. Katie and Quintin Sleigh of Arlington Heights, IL along with most chiropractors agree that the most common cause of chronic back and neck pain in children as well as adults is the stress put on the spine by improper posture. Wearing a heavy backpack as a child increases the likelihood that the forward posture will become ‘normal’ in adulthood possibly leading to chronic pain.

Dr Katie Sleigh and Dr Quintin SleighAs pediatric chiropractors, Drs. Quintin and Katie are specialists in proper posture to reduce the stress in the spine and nerve system. To get you and your family checked by these Arlington Heights chiropractors, call 847-788-0880.

In part II of this article, we will discuss warning signs of improper backpack use and list expert recommendations and guidelines to help ensure your child does not suffer from the associated risks discussed in this article.

Photo credit to:,,

Sleigh Family Chiropractic

At Sleigh Family Chiropractic, we focus on restoring your body to health naturally. We provide family chiropractic care to treat your entire family. We have special certifications as pediatric chiropractors and prenatal chiropractors. With an evaluation we are able to make a spinal care plan that will focus on a balanced nervous system along with healthy lifestyle. As a leading chiropractic clinic we treat patients with back pain, neck pain, leg pain, and other painful conditions.

Skip to content