Heavy School Bags Are Causing Back Pain

Heavy school bags are uncomfortable and can cause back pain and serious injury. Are heavy school bags hurting your children?

study by the University of California used MRI images to find out how heavy school bags may be causing discomfort, and back pain for children.

Their results found that “backpack loads are responsible for a significant amount of back pain in children, which in part, may be due to changes in lumbar disc height or curvature”.

Going to school often means carrying textbooks, lunch boxes, stationery, laptops and much more on a daily basis which collectively can result in a very heavy bag.

As a manufacturer of Kids’ packs, Deuter recognized their responsibility to design great school backpacks that take into account the numerous factors that affect carrying comfort, performance, durability, and the unique physiology of children. And because they wanted to do it right, they involved external specialists in the development process like Dr. Micha Bahr.

As Medical Director of the pediatric surgical ward at the Ruhr University Hospital in Germany, Dr. Bahr is confronted with back problems, postural deformities, and impaired motor skills on a daily basis. And, as a father of three girls and an outdoor and sports enthusiast, his unique experience and expert knowledge was key to the success of the project.

Which brings us to the question… What can you do to ensure your child’s pack doesn’t cause back pain or permanent damage?


Seven-year-old Mattias is wearing a Deuter Junior Backpack and eleven-year-old Koen, a Deuter Fox 30 — an all-around hiking, day use, and school pack.

Follow these 4 steps to ensure your child’s pack doesn’t cause back pain or permanent damage:

1) Follow the 10% rule. Experts suggest that you shouldn’t carry more than 10% of your body weight in a bag – it creates an imbalance in your posture, straining the muscles in your back and neck.

2) Do a daily bag edit and make use of lockers.  Don’t carry all your things around unless you totally need to. Before you leave your house go through your bag and take out all the things that you won’t need for that day. If you have access to a locker at your school leave your heavy contents in there instead of walking around with it the entire day.

3) Wear your bag properly. The backpacks center of gravity should sit close to the body, ideally on shoulder height- thus it won’t pull backward. Make sure that your pack is being carried on both shoulders. Don’t let your bag sag all the way to the back of your knee’s. If your pack has a waist belt put a majority of the weight to your hips. You can read our previous blog post on fitting and adjusting your pack here.

4) Buy a bag with features that will help carry the load.
Here are the features Dr. Bahr highlights:

  • Shoulder straps: sturdy and comfortable shoulder straps that are adjustable.
  • Waist belts: to help distribute weight.
  • Chest straps: these fasten across the chest and are designed to support and stabilize the load.
  • Back system: The simplest of back systems will have two vertical ribs of foam to offer some padding and comfort and as a bonus will add a degree of ventilation.

Dr.Bahr suggests that your child’s school pack should have the same features as an alpine backpack.

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