Backpacks Without Back Pain

by Dr. Michelle Collie, DPT, MS, OCS

Does your child ever come home from school complaining of their back or shoulders hurting? I know my kids do.

Kids are sent home with numerous materials each day. You may think that carrying around some heavy items for a little while will be fine, but did you know that every year there are around 5,000 trips to the emergency room due to neck, shoulder, and back problems, all because of the way children wear backpacks? Backpacks need to be supported by the back and abdominal muscles, but when worn incorrectly, they cause overuse of muscles and soft tissue, causing stress on the neck, shoulders, or arms.

Don’t worry, though, all those injuries are preventable if you teach your kids proper backpack usage!

Check out this helpful video guide on proper backpack usage!

Follow these simple steps to assure your child is using proper backpack techniques to conquer the year.

Choose the right backpack for your kids:

When picking out a backpack, your child might only be focused on the colors or designs, but you should be focusing on everything else. By choosing a backpack with thicker straps, you will help distribute the weight more evenly over the shoulders. It is important to find a backpack with adjustable straps and those that have a chest or hip strap. These straps will help adjust the backpack to fit your child properly.

Teach your children how to pack their backpack properly:

Always put the heavier items in the largest, further back, pocket of the backpack.  The smaller items, like a pencil box or water bottle, can then be distributed to the smaller pockets in the front or on the sides. Most importantly, never let your child's backpack exceed 15% of their body weight, if it does, then something needs to be taken out.

Teach your children how to wear backpacks properly:

Children should always use both straps and adjust them to ensure the weight of the pack is lifted higher. If you have a chest or hip strap, put those to use. By pulling the backpack up higher, having the bottom of the pack end right above the buttock area, you will prevent the weight of the backpack from pulling on the shoulders. This helps prevent slouching and minimizes the risk of problems and pain that occur from carrying backpacks to school. 

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