Ohhh my aching back… pack

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Familiar with the term "growing pains" right? Health care providers use this term to describe the aches and pains children experience in their joints and limbs as a result of rapid growth.

Previous research has shown up to 50 per cent of all 15 and 16-year olds experience some sort of back pain. One study attributes this not to growing pains, but something entirely different: backpacks.

A child was classified as suffering from back pain if they met one or more of the following requirements in the preceding month: neck or back pain that interfered with school or leisure activities; pain with a severity rating of 2 or more (on a scale of 0 to 10); a visit to a physician or therapist for neck or back pain; being exempted from physical activity because of neck or back pain

74.4 per cent of the children surveyed were classified as having back pain. Among the key points:

  • Adolescents with back pain displayed "significantly poorer" general health scores performed fewer physical activities, and had more general bodily pain.
  • Significant relationships drawn between the incidence of lower back pain and both the weight of the backpack and the amount of time the backpack was used.
  • Females were more than twice as likely to experience back pain.


Additionally, girls who carried a purse along with their backpack had significantly more back pain than girls who did not. 

Backpacks appear to be a leading contributor to back pain in adolescents. If you have a young child, check his or her backpack to ensure that it isn't too heavy. You may also want to consider buying your child a wheeled backpack, which can take a tremendous amount of stress off his or her back. And of course, regular visits to your local chiropractor can do a world of good, too!


Sheir-Neiss G, Kruse R, Rahman T, et al. The association of backpack use and back pain in adolescents. Spine, May 1, 2003: Volume 28, Number 9, pp.922-930

Dr. Joel Weisberg is the Clinic Director and Principal Doctor at Downsview Chiropractic The difference it makes to a patient when they learn, receive appropriate care, feel cared for, and are empowered to self-manage, is often bigger than the relief they were seeking. Dr. Weisberg is driven to make that difference to people in their pursuit of a life lived well™.