September 15, 2010, was the 10th anniversary of National School Backpack Awareness Day and an ongoing effort to make parents and students more aware of safety concerns related to carrying heavy backpacks, according to a press release from the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress. Research published in theJournal of Pediatric Orthopedics, found that students carrying excessive weight in their backpacks may develop long-term back pain and other serious health conditions including numbness of the shoulder, muscle spasms and posture deterioration.

“Common backpack misuse — from loose straps to item overload — causes a shift in the center of gravity and will require an altered posture to compensate for the extra load,” advises Gerard Clum, D.C., president of Life Chiropractic College West and spokesperson for the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress (

According to the latest research, limiting bag weights to no more than five to 10 percent of body weight, as well as making sure to accurately position the bag and use both straps for even weight distribution, can significantly decrease children’s risks of spinal injuries and discomfort.

“At first glance the weight of a backpack doesn’t seem like it would affect posture or mobility. Over time, however, the weight takes its toll and can lead to a greater potential for injury,” adds Dr. Clum. To combat backpack-related injuries, many parents choose backpacks with multiple compartments. This design can effectively position and distribute weight while providing students with alternative storage options. While some parents continue to believe in the common misconception that bigger is always better, turning backpacks into personal portable lockers has now proven to be detrimental to students’ health.