Does Carrying A Heavy Backpack or Bag Make the Curve Worse?

Heavy BackpackA backpack is essential in every child’s life. Since children carry heavy devices and books to school, an increasing number of children suffer from back problems that get so worse that they cannot be corrected. These deformities are caused by carrying heavy items (such as a heavy bag or backpack) on the back.

Heavy backpacks strain children’s spines and can lead to back pain. Back pain and back deformities are very common in children that are as young as 10 years old. Apart from an abnormal curve of the spine, other issues faced by those that carry heavy backpacks include muscle and back pain, excessive fatigue, poor body posture, and shoulder and neck pain.

Signs That A Child’s Backpack is Too Heavy

Your child’s backpack is too heavy if you notice any of these signs:

  • Complaints of neck and back pains.
  • Hunching forward to offset the weight of the backpack.
  • Issues with posture, for instance, one shoulder could be higher than the other.
  • Muscle tension in the neck or upper back and shoulders.
  • Misalignment of the spine.

Health Risks of Heavy Backpack, Bag, Suitcase, Briefcase, and Purse

Carrying heavy items (such as a bag, suitcase, briefcase, purse, and backpack) can cause a strain on the shoulders, back, and neck. The child’s body will try to compensate for the additional weight by leaning forward; this can make the body adopt a position that puts the spine out of alignment. It can also wear out and weaken the muscle; thereby leading to poor posture.

The longer someone carries extra weight, the worse the condition and body posture get. Over time, the person can experience pain, flexibility problems, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. This can increase one’s potential for injury. It can also cause sore or stiff neck, backache, headaches, and sore shoulders.

In a nutshell, carrying heavy backpacks and back affect the spinal curve in the following ways:

  • It causes one-sided stress thereby making you lean towards the dominant side.
  • It causes uneven distribution of weight thereby affecting one’s ability to maintain an upright posture.
  • Heavy items affect one’s natural gait.
  • It can cause muscle stiffness in the neck and shoulder area thereby hindering daily functioning and reducing the full range of motion of the neck.



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High School students at lockers carrying backpacksWhen is A Child’s Backpack Considered to Be Too Heavy?

A child’s backpack should not weigh more than 10 to 15 percent of the child’s body weight. According to a Consumer Reports survey, at most 10 percent of the child’s weight is preferable. In other words, the lighter the backpack is, the better for the child’s health. The best thing is to pay attention to the child’s posture while wearing a backpack or bag. If the child stoops or leans forward, then the item is too heavy.

Children that carry their backpacks over one shoulder (and adults that carry heavy briefcases and suitcases) are also prone to injury. This exerts all the weight on a single side, thereby making the child bend while trying to compensate for the extra weight. This can cause discomfort in the shoulder and back, thereby causing injury.

How To Relieve Strain on The Neck and Shoulder

The health challenges that are caused by heavy backpacks can be prevented if the problem is identified on time. Parents need to identify the signs stated earlier on time. If any of the signs are noticed, it is important to get in touch with a specialist to understand the cause.

Prevention is very important. For kids and adults that are experiencing neck, shoulder, and back strain as a result of a heavy backpack, some stretches, and exercises can help. Upper-trap and pec stretches can help enhance the flexibility of muscles in the back and shoulder and also prevent deformed posture.

The back and abdominal muscles can also be strengthened to improve posture and relieve the burden of carrying heavy items for a long period. It is also important to maintain overall physical fitness to reduce the strain of the weight of a backpack on the body.

Can Carrying a Heavy Backpack, Bag, Suitcase, Briefcase, and Purse Cause Scoliosis?

There is no connection between carrying heavy items (including bags, suitcases, briefcases, purses, backpacks, and scoliosis.

Scoliosis refers to a condition where the spine curves sideways. Symptoms of this condition include an uneven waist, a hip that is higher than the other, or a more prominent shoulder blade on one side.

Scoliosis can affect people irrespective of their age, but it is more rampant in children that are at least 11 years old. It affects children that are experiencing growth defects before puberty (although it can also affect older adults). Girls are also at a higher risk of having a curved spine, and genetics can also be responsible for the condition. You may have scoliosis if you have a family member that has it.

Scoliosis symptoms are not always obvious, but those with mild cases of scoliosis often lean more toward either the left or right side. They also have uneven shoulders, hips, and collarbones due to the curvature of the spine.

In a nutshell, scoliosis is not caused by carrying items, no matter how extreme they are. Although backpacks do not cause scoliosis, carrying heavy items can cause other forms of spinal problems. This is usually the case if the backpack is very heavy and the straps are too loose, or when the child leans forward to compensate for the extra weight; thereby causing a misalignment of the spine.

Continuous use of heavy backpacks, bags, suitcases, briefcases, and purses can cause muscle weakness and fatigue. This pushes the spine out of alignment. It also causes bad posture and other conditions that lead to scoliosis in children and teens (since the spine is still developing at these ages).

Can Carrying a Heavy Backpack, Bag, Suitcase, Briefcase, and Purse, too Often Worsen Scoliosis?

As stated earlier, carrying heavy items can lead to conditions that cause scoliosis. Thus, excess weight on bags, suitcases, briefcases, purses, and backpacks can worsen scoliosis and also worsen the curve in the spine.

A heavy load can strain an already curved spine, thereby leading to a mild case of scoliosis to be severe. This condition may require therapy or surgery for it to be corrected.

Tips For Using Backpacks

If you want your backpack to work for you (and not against you), here are some tips that you need to adhere to:

Use a backpack with two padded straps that go over your shoulder

Ensure the straps are wide; the wider they are, the better. Backpacks with metal frames (like those used by hikers) may offer better support. You can also use backpacks that have multiple compartments to evenly distribute the weight.

Carry the backpack well by ensuring it sits close to your back

The straps of the backpacks are probably too long if the backpack extends beyond your lower back or your butt and bumps against your back as you walk. Both straps should be over your shoulder. You can also take some books from the bag and carry them in your hands if the bag is too heavy.

Limit the load you carry

Don’t carry more than 10% to 15% of your body weight in your backpack or bag. In other words, if you weigh 120 pounds, don’t carry a backpack or bag that exceeds 12 to 28 pounds. Carrying a lightweight bag or backpack will get you off to a good start.

Pick the bag, suitcase, briefcase, or backpack up properly

As with any heavy item, ensure you bend at the knees when you are lifting a backpack or bag.

Prevent back injury by strengthening your core

Strengthening the stabilizing muscles of the torso (i.e. muscles of the lower back and abdomen) is a great way of preventing injury. Activities that can help to strengthen the core muscles include pilates, weight training, and yoga.

Get Relief From a Curved Spine Caused By Heavy Backpacks

Back pains caused by heavy backpacks are usually temporary. The additional weight does not cause long-term damage to the spine. Also, it does not cause scoliosis.

When our specialists at Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute treat patients suffering from backpack pain, we usually suggest lifestyle changes to reduce the influence of the extra weight on the body. We may also recommend physical therapy in some cases. Our goal is to ensure that children are healthy so that they can go on with their lives and do what they want without feeling any unnecessary pain.

Let Us Help You Live a Pain-Free Life

At Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute with offices in DallasPlano, and Frisco, Texas our experts specialize in performing non-invasive and minimally-invasive treatment procedures to ease the severe pain caused by heavy bags, purses, suitcases, briefcases, and backpacks. Our experts (which include board-certified physicians and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons) use different technologically advanced and innovative treatment procedures.

We are committed to offering treatment solutions that relieve back pain and enhance your quality of life. If you notice that your child is showing signs of complications from carrying heavy bags or backpacks, contact us at 214-556-0555 for a thorough spine examination and to provide the appropriate treatment.


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If you or your loved one suffers from degenerative disc disease, a herniated disc, or another complex spine condition. We can help. Call Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute at 214-556-0555 to make an appointment today.