The drawbacks of carrying heavy school bags

With children carrying heavier devices (such as laptops and iPads) and books to school, a large number of children suffer from growing deformities that cannot even be corrected, caused as a result of carrying a heavy weight on their backs or rather heavy school bags. Back pain and spinal abnormalities are extremely common in children as young as 10 years. Some of the common issues children face these days are excessive fatigue, muscle and back pain, poor body posture, lumbar pains, neck and shoulder pain, an abnormal curve of the spine etc.

In some cases, children often carry their bag on one shoulder leading to leaning on one side with all the weight. This particularly causes back pain and severe strain to the neck and shoulder. The straps of the backpacks also cause injury by interfering with the nerves and blood circulation.

These issues can cause long-term damage for children growing up. A child’s body is constantly growing and developing, their skeleton gets deformed because of the weight of the backpack and this can cause severe lasting damage. Backpacks cause long-term back problems with poor posture, spine deformity etc. that makes it difficult for the child to function. Identification of the problem is extremely important at an early stage. Heavy backpacks cause back, neck and shoulder pain and this pain becomes worse if kids have sedentary lifestyles.

The health concerns caused due to heavy backpacks can definitely be prevented by early identification of the problem. Parents need to identify signs at an early stage. If the child complaints of back, neck or shoulder pain, leg pain, severe fatigue, or is straining forward when carrying a backpack, get checked with a specialist in order to understand the cause. The overall weight of your child’s back pack should not be more than 10% of your child’s overall weight.

  • Buy a lightweight backpack with multiple compartments for your child and encourage them to wear the bag on both straps.
  • Ensure that the back pack has padding on the straps and at the back.
  • Buy trolley bags for children who walk some distance from home to school or even to the bus stop.
  • Advice your child on carrying a lightweight backpack and avoid extra books and weight
  • The backpack should not hang much below the waist. This indicates excessive strain on the shoulders

Backpacks certain components (i.e. size, weight, compartments) are not that are escalating these issues in children but the way it is carried. Ensure to buy a backpack with different compartments allowing easy organization of items in the bag. Also, do not invest in heavy fancy bags as they add on to the weight from items inside the bag. As a parent make sure to teach your child the right way to carry a backpack.

  • Avoid carrying all the weight on one shoulder and distribute the weight evenly by carrying it on both shoulders.
  • Tighten the straps and adjust as per requirement so that the backpack is closer to the body
  • Organize the backpack well, all heavy books should be packed in the center compartment of the backpack.

Deciding on the right size of the backpack is very important. Always make sure you help your child in choosing a backpack. If kids are given the option, they would go by the looks of the backpack rather than its functionality. It is the usage of the backpack that will decide the size of the backpack. When buying a backpack for your child ensure to look for the below;

  • Padded straps
  • Consider buying a backpack with a waist belt
  • Do not buy backpacks that are heavy themselves
  • Buy small backpacks for younger children
  • Trolley bags are advisable for younger children as they are more convenient


Dr. Ajayan P

Specialist Paediatrician

Aster Clinic, Al Butina, Sharjah


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