Avoid backpack pains

August 23, 2021

Backpacks make it easy to carry all of that back-to-school gear. However, improper use may lead to back or neck pain. Picking the right backpack and wearing it properly can prevent issues before they start.

What to look for when choosing a backpack:

  • An appropriate size: A backpack should not be wider than your child's torso or hang more than 4 inches below the waist
  • Padded, adjustable shoulder straps to help distribute the weight on your child’s back without digging into their shoulders
  • Padded back to protect against contents inside the backpack poking into your child’s back
  • Waist and chest straps to help distribute the weight of the backpack more evenly across your child’s back
  • Multiple compartments to help position the weight more effectively
  • Compression straps to stabilize the contents
  • Reflective material to allow your child to be seen when walking to and from school

When filling a backpack, place the heaviest items, like textbooks, toward the part that sits against your child’s back, and add lighter items, like notebooks and calculators, toward the outside. This keeps the weight concentrated toward the center, making it easier to balance. 

The American Chiropractic Association recommends that backpacks should weigh no more than five to ten percent of the child’s body weight. A heavier backpack will cause your child to bend forward in an attempt to support the weight on his or her back, rather than on the shoulders, by the straps. It is good practice to do a once-a-week clean-out of the backpack. 

It is important to wear the backpack properly and adjust the fit. Always encourage children to use both straps when carrying a backpack. Shoulder straps are generally adjustable toward the bottom. Tighten them enough so that the top of the backpack falls around the shoulder blades. There should also be minimal movement as they walk. This takes the pressure off the shoulders to improve posture while walking and provides extra stability. 

Lastly, remind students that when picking up a heavy backpack, they should bend at the knees, not the waist.