Backstabbing Backpacks

Ethan Chen, Staff Writer

Each year, more than 13,000 students are treated in the hospital for backpack-related injuries. This, of course, is a surprisingly high number. Backpacks are designed as an efficient way to help us carry our things from place to place, so why is this happening? The answer is simple: backpacks that are too heavy! It may not seem like it, but carrying a heavy backpack around every day can have long-lasting or even permanent negative effects on your body. Especially for freshmen who are just getting used to the amount of items that they’ll have to carry in their backpacks, these problems need to be addressed. 

Kaden Wedhoff, a freshman, agrees. “Yeah, ever since the school year started, I have to carry way more stuff than I did at Dana. My backpack is stuffed!”


What are the dangers of a heavy backpack?

Backpacks that are too heavy are not only a hindrance on getting around quickly, but can also have devastating effects on your spine, shoulders, muscles, posture, arms, and lower back, all very important parts of your body. Your shoulders are not meant to be used to hang heavy loads on, so lugging around a very heavy bag can quickly lead to joint pain. Since the human body naturally wants to right itself in a way that allows us to remain balanced, carrying an overweight backpack will often cause you to lean forwards. In the future, this can easily result in poor posture as well as shoulder and neck pain. You might also begin to feel the strain of a heavy bag in your upper chest and back as the weight makes it difficult for your various ligaments and muscles to support you.


When is my backpack too heavy?

It should be relatively easy to tell if your backpack is a little too stuffed for your own good. Red marks on your shoulders, shoulder or back pain, and fingers/arms falling asleep are all symptoms that your backpack is putting too much strain on your back. You should also be able to tell from weight alone when a backpack is too heavy. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, a student’s backpack should have a weight equivalent to that of around 10-15% of the student’s body weight. Next time you have access to a scale, try weighing your backpack to see if it fits this range.


What can I do to prevent these problems?

Well, simply decreasing the weight of your backpack is the simplest option. Often times, however, this is not possible with all the books and other miscellaneous items.. Here are some quick tips on how you can deal with a heavy backpack.



  • Take out Unnecessary Items – This may seem obvious, but managing the items stored in your bag each day is important if you want to reduce your chance of back and shoulder problems. Make sure you only bring the essentials so that you can limit the strain that your bag puts on your body. Plan each day before school or the night before so that you can limit the amount of things you bring and lower the risk of heavy-backpack problems.
  • Use the bag how it was intended – Make sure you use both backpack straps while carrying your bag at all times. Even with a heavy bag, using both straps helps to distribute the weight of the backpack evenly upon your shoulders and helps to decrease the load on either of your arms.
  • Straps and Bands – Typically, school backpacks on the larger side will come equipped with a helpful chest strap or connectable band that can help to provide support for your back by transferring some of the weight from your bag unto your chest. Larger bags might also come with a handy-dandy waist strap that helps even more by shifting weight from your shoulders and back to your hips, a much better way to distribute weight across your body. Even if your backpack doesn’t have these things, it’s easy and doesn’t cost much to purchase and apply your own straps.
  • Adjust your Backpack – Most backpacks come with adjustable arm straps that allow the user to adjust their length to the optimal size. This can be very useful for taking some of the weight of a heavy bag off of your shoulders and arms. If your bag has adjustable straps fit them so that your bag sits as closely as it can to your body. Make sure it hugs your body snugly so that it doesn’t sway when you walk, and the less space between you and your bag, the better.
  • Consider Alternatives – This one is mostly situational. If your teachers and classes allow it, try and use electronic versions of textbooks, books, and other tools instead of the physical items. Most of us here at AHS have constant access to our school-distributed chromebooks, and oftentimes the heavy textbooks that you carry around on a daily basis can be found online. E-books are also a viable alternative to regular books, and typing assignments on your Google Drive instead of carrying around a set of paper notebooks can help to decrease the total weight of your bag. Ask your teachers about some of these options and whether they’re allowed or not.