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How much is too much for your back to handle?

Sujata Gandhi and Cole Perry

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Students at Skyline have backpacks weighing up to 40 pounds. The harm that backpacks cause to students’ backs is immense. Many students carry their backpacks with them all day, five days a week, which can cause damage- especially when a backpack is heavy.


The weight of a student’s backpack plays a key role in back pain. “A backpack overloaded with school books and supplies can strain the back and cause muscle fatigue,” the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke said in a study. Using a locker and carrying only necessary items in a backpack can help students to lighten the load.


Heavy backpacks also cause physical harm in addition to just being painful. “When you put a heavy weight on your shoulders in the wrong way, the weight’s force can pull you backward. To compensate, you may bend forward at the hips or arch your back. This can cause your spine to compress unnaturally. People who carry heavy backpacks sometimes lean forward. Over time this can cause the shoulders to become rounded and the upper back to become curved. Because of the heavy burden, there’s a chance of developing shoulder, neck, and back pain. If you wear your backpack over just one shoulder or carry your books in a messenger bag, you may end up leaning to one side to offset the extra weight. You might develop lower and upper back pain and strain your shoulders and neck. Not using a backpack properly can lead to bad posture… Tight, narrow straps that dig into your shoulders can pinch nerves and interfere with circulation, and you might develop tingling, numbness, and weakness in your arms and hands,” said KidsHealth. Carrying too much in a backpack can cause these problems.


Backpacks can be as light as 4 pounds, or as heavy as 40 pounds. However, the weight limit for a backpack depends on the individual’s weight. “The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of [a student’s] body weight,” said the American Academy of Pediatrics. This would mean that a student who is 100 pounds should not carry a backpack that’s more than 20 pounds. In addition to this, a backpack should have wide straps which are worn on both shoulders and not hang lower than the waist. Students always have the option to use a locker to store their things, although many forgo this.


Some students do not use their lockers for various reasons. “[It’s] just a waste of time,” Bianca Valadez (9) said. Some students have a locker in an inconvenient location, some may not like sharing their locker, and some just prefer to use their backpack. But there are many students who use their locker instead of carrying everything with them. “If I don’t need a specific thing for a specific class, then why should I carry it around all day?” Alex Rivera (9) said. Also, seniors, due to a lighter schedule, use backpacks less frequently. “I hardly ever see them use backpacks when they’re seniors,” Melissa Martinez said.


Despite all of this, the fact still remains: students are carrying heavy backpacks every day and may suffer from back problems in the future.

Sujata Gandhi
Facts about backpacks at Skyline

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How much is too much for your back to handle?