Back to school and backbreaking backpacks

For many children, the summer vacation is not only time off from school but a break from wearing a heavy backpack. While the time off may have served their weary backs and shoulders well, an overloaded backpack that’s too small or too large could create physical issues that plague them throughout the upcoming school year and beyond if not properly addressed.

“The two important steps to backpack wearing is the fit and how much stuff is in the pack,” said Dr. David Dwyer, president of Chiropractic Society of Rhode Island and a chiropractic physician at Toll Gate Chiropractic in Warwick and Wakefield, Rhode Island. “An improperly fitted pack that’s overloaded will impact your child’s posture and could lead to some serious issues.”

The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) recommends your child’s backpack never hangs more than four inches below the waistline. You also must be wary of your child overloading his or her backpack. At most, the weight of the pack should be 10 percent of his or her body weight.

Other considerations include purchasing a backpack with wide, padded straps—adjusted for a snug fit rather than worn loosely. Children should wear both straps on both shoulders and avoid carrying on one shoulder. Again, this type of uneven distribution can lead to poor posture, misalignment of vertebra and muscle strains—even curvature of the spine.

“Growing bodies need proper alignment and the backpack epidemic has led to an increase in younger patients in Rhode Island, the U.S.,” said Dr. Dwyer.

According to the ACA website, the backpack problem is not restricted to the U.S. In fact, a recent study in Italy revealed that “the average child carries a backpack that would be the equivalent of a 39-pound burden for a 176-pound man, or a 29-pound load for a 132-pound woman. Of those children carrying heavy backpacks to school, 60 percent had experienced back pain as a result.”

In addition to buying a proper backpack and making sure it fits correctly, Dr. Dwyer recommends a discussion with your child’s teacher to determine what items the student needs to be transporting. Perhaps the heavier items can be left at school.

“It really is incumbent on parents to inspect their child’s backpack to ensure that it fits properly but also to be sure they are not packing more than they can safely carry,” said Dr. Dwyer. “While the preventative and wellness benefits of chiropractic apply to people of all ages, we certainly don’t want to see children and teenagers in here having pain and difficulty due to an overloaded and ill-fitting backpack.”

To find a chiropractor in Rhode Island, you can go to

About Chiropractic Society of Rhode Island (CSRI)

Founded in 1918, CSRI is one of the oldest chiropractic associations in the United States and represents almost half of the chiropractic physicians in the Ocean State. In addition to providing a regional voice for chiropractors in the business and legislative arenas, CSRI also helps educate the general public on the benefits of chiropractic. Those all-natural benefits can include relief from headaches, asthma, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel, colic, and stress, just to name a few. The Chiropractic Society of Rhode Island is located at 1272 West Main Road, Building 2, Middletown, RI 02842. For more information, call (401) 207-0700 or visit

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