Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up and Use a Backpack – Part II

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Could you repeat that? Did you say backpack use can alter my child’s spine?

According to researchers, “Our results suggest that a 12 kg load, fairly common in this population (carried at least once a week), seems to push the postural system to its physiological limits.” 12 kg is 26 lbs and 26 pounds is a lot of weight for a child to carry. Did you get that? Backpack use only one time per week can change your child’s posture, and not for the better!

Here’s what happens. A backpack worn over both shoulders causes a child to lean forward in order to maintain center of gravity. As a result, the spine elongates and optimal spine curvature is lost. Consider this: the spine is a column and in the case of the spinal column strength is derived from optimal curvature. When optimal curvature is lost, so is column stability. When stability is lost, the load being carried now has the ability to more easily buckle the developing spine. A buckled spine can easily lead to scoliosis.

Think about someone, someone you may know, who is always in need of a shoulder to cry on. Now, imagine this person constantly leaning on your shoulder, everyday, from the time you were 9, never stopping, until you were 15. Do you think this would change your posture?!!! The answer is yes! Yes, this would change your posture, and Heuter-Volkmann’s Law is why this would also change how the bones grow. As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.

When we return…Part III, at which time we’ll discuss backpack alternatives and simple ways to assess your child’s risk for abnormal bone growth.


Harrison DE, Cailliet R, Harrison DD, Janik T. How do anterior/posterior translations of the thoracic cage affect the sagittal lumbar spine, pelvic tilt, and thoracic kyphosis? Eur Spine Journal. 2002 Jun;11(3):287-93.

Negrini S, Carabalona R, Sibilla P. Backpack as a daily load for schoolchildren. Lancet. 1999;354:1974.

Negrini S, Carabalona R. Backpacks on! Schoolchildren's perceptions of load, associations with back pain and factors determining the load. Spine. 2002;27:187–195.

Pascoe DD, Pascoe DE, Wang YT, Shim DM, Kim CK. Influence of carrying book bags on gait cycle and posture of youths. Ergonomics. 1997;40:631–641.

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