Pain and injury caused by school backpacks is rarely solved by carrying less weight, because the weight is not the primary problem. The real culprit is the off-axis loading and posture distortion caused by traditional backpacks. Axial carrying systems, like our BackTpack, ensure ideal postural alignment for healthy, safe and beneficial load carrying.
Proper load carrying improves a child’s posture and growth
Growing bones and muscles need to be loaded for healthy bone growth and muscle development. It is only during a child's growth period that bones build permanent alignment and bone density for a lifetime, essential for preventing osteoporosis in later years. (The term “orthopaedic” literally means “straight child”.) The important caveat, is that the bones and muscles must be loaded in good alignment both to avoid injury and for optimal development.
Backpack-related injuries in children are preventable
Over 22,000 children suffered backpack related injuries in 2013, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. The majority of students carry heavy backpacks weighing as much as 25% of their body weight. 60% of children who carry heavy backpacks experience back pain. Potential health issues can be lifelong, including:
- Chronic Back Pain
- Chronic Neck Pain
- Shoulder Pain
- Hip Pain
- Knee Pain
- Chronic Inflammation
- Constriction of Internal Organs
- Poor posture
We know that these weights can be carried safely, even benficially, when the loads are aligned with the vertical axis of the child's body. Unfortunately, a conventional backpack, even a so-called ergonomic backpack, positions its load off-axis and puts the child at risk of injury.
An ergonomic school bag should align the load with the vertical axis of the body
An axial loading system allows the growing child to use their weight-bearing joints and supporting muscles in good posture. Our muscles and joints are exquisitely designed allow us to safely carry significant loads safely and without pain. With an ergonomic school bag that facilitates good posture, our kids can stand tall and carry their books and supplies without risk of injury.
BackTpack school bags reduce spinal loading and pain
Students who have pain when carrying a heavy backpack, experience immediate relief carrying the same weight in the BackTpack. The load feels lighter because the axial-loading system reduces forces on the spine and improves posture.
The BackTpack design is based upon orthopaedic and neuromuscular science. The BackTpack safely provides critically important posture and loading for healthy child growth and development.
BackTpack has ergonomic benefits for many student activities
Easy access to books and supplies whether standing or sitting. No more bending and twisting to take off a backpack in order to sit down or get to an item.
Children report that they can walk faster, move more freely, and even run while wearing the BackTpack.
Greater safety on a bicycle than with a conventional backpack because the load is balanced and has a lower center of gravity, improving stability on a bike. Read more about how cylists use the BackTpack.
Walking to school without back pain.
Biking to school without back pain.
Parents comment that BackTpacks simplify carpooling. Students can wear a BackTpack in the car rather than having to put it in the trunk, saving time at both ends of the trip.
School backpack legislation
Backpack safety has become an international concern due to the epidemic of poor posture and pain associated with use of common school backpacks. Four states now have "school backpack legislation": Oregon, Delaware, Tennessee and California. While well-meaning, these laws and regulations miss the point. These legislative efforts primarily address the maximum amount of weight the child should carry in their backpack, and fail to address the faulty body mechanics caused by backpacks.
The misconception is that the weight of the load is the culprit. The culprit is really the off-axis loading system.
It is critically important that backpack legislation clarify that weight should not be carried off-axis, as occurs with the design of typical school backpacks. Weight must be in alignment with a vertical spine to support healthy growth, development and healthy posture.
On February 7, 2017 Marilyn Miller von Foerster PT testified at the Hearing for Oregon SB 216 and JR 6, regarding effective solutions to the problem that school backpacks have caused since they first were introduced as school bags in the 1970’s. Backpacks must be replaced with axial-loading systems for school use.
Marilyn Miller von Foerster PT testified at the Public Hearing on these bills with the Oregon State Senate Committee on Education in February and presented testimony for SJR 6 the Oregon House of Representatives Committee on Education in March of 2017.
Please see our testimonial video to understand how students not only feel better with this ergonomic school bag, but they feel better about themselves, when they stand tall and are without pain.
"Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children. Nothing. And our hopes for their future should drive every single decision that we make." -Former First Lady Michelle Obama
"My son was having difficulty managing his backpack, and started complaining of back and shoulder pain after school. We tried the BackTpack and he felt pain-free instantly. He reports that the BackTpack "doesn't hurt" and its design allows him to automatically turn on his posture muscles and stand straighter when he is waiting for the bus and transitioning between classes. He can carry his school binder, a cellphone, lunch and a few books without any difficulty. It's lasted over a year in middle school with no signs of excessive wear and tear. It's been a great investment in both wellness and durability."
-Christina Howard, MPT
Physical Therapist Assistant Program
Lane Community College, Eugene, OR
Ball State University Professor Recommends BackTpack to ATME Membership
Dear ATME(Association of Theatre Movement Educators) membership,
I have come across a product that I have in the past few years strongly recommended to my students and will next year require all of the performance majors to own.
As you all know, dealing with corrective issues in alignment is difficult and getting the students involved in a healthy daily practice that supports the work done in class is a challenge. The back packs they wear filled with heavy crud cause distention of the head and hips as well as a forward shoulder roll, all of which make breathing difficult and any kind of neutral form nearly impossible to achieve.
BackTpacks seem to be a good start to helping the students begin correcting 14 years or more of unhealthy physical habits. The BackTpacks are designed to help maintain an active alignment and promote a healthy daily practice allowing the students to extend the work being done in class.
Assistant Professor of Movement and Acting
Department of Theatre and Dance
Ball State University
"This is the most amazing load carrying system ever invented. I have had one for about one week and all my back and neck problems disappeared within 2 days of using it, and as a student carrying many pounds of books it has been a literal lifesaver for me." -Barry S.
Students share their thoughts about their BackTpacks, and how BackTpack has improved their posture and overall comfort.
Related Articles, Studies, & Research
, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 1281–1386.
Abstract: Bone mass is built throughout childhood. This process is especially rapid during adolescence, reaching a peak shortly after peak height. By 4 years following the peak in height, 95 % of adult bone mass has been achieved. This period of rapid bone growth is the crucial "time of both opportunity and vulnerability for optimizing peak bone mass.” The National Osteoporosis Foundation "recommend[s] lifestyle choices that promote maximal bone health from childhood through young to late adolescence and outline[s] a research agenda to address current gaps in knowledge. The best evidence is available for positive effects of calcium intake and physical activity, especially during the late childhood and peripubertal years—a critical period for bone accretion." Download a PDF of the full article.
Kimberly D. Dahl, He Wang, Jennifer K. Popp, D. Clark Dickin, "Load distribution and postural changes in young adults when wearing a traditional backpack versus the BackTpack" Gait & Posture (March 2016) Volume 45, Pages 90-96. Click her to view the abstract.
Kimberly D. Dahl, Henry Wang, and D. Clark Dickin of Ball State University, Muncie, IN, USA : Abstract of Presentation at the 2015 American Society for Biomechanics, "Postural Changes in Young Adults When Wearing a Traditional Backpack Versus the BackTpack” Click here to view the article.
Frances Kistner, PT, PhD, CEAS; Ira Fiebert, PT, PhD; Kathryn Roach, PT, PhD; James Moore, PT, PhD"Postural Compensations and Subjective Complaints Due to Backpack Loads and Wear Time in Schoolchildren" Pediatr Phys Ther 2013;25:15–24. Click here to view the article.
von Foerster, Marilyn Miller, PT, MA "BACKPACK SAFETY: AN OXYMORON"
As backpack use for school has become widespread, numerous articles and programs have offered instruction and guidelines in "backpack safety". Nevertheless, the incidence of backpack-related pain and injury continues to rise and has reached epidemic proportions. Click here to view the article.