Tips for Backpack Safety

Pediatric Chiropractor discusses tips for backpack safety to prevent low back pain and neck pain in children.

Mankato, MN

It’s that time of year already when all the kids go back to school. Some excited, some not so much, I’m sure! I was always one that was ready to go back to school no matter what age I was. I got to see my friends, sports practices started and just maybe because I enjoyed learning, (especially the older I got – obviously!). I still remember the overloaded backpacks and knowing what I know now, remember what they do to your posture. So I thought I would write about some tips for the proper way to wear and pack a backpack.

Backpacks are actually one of the leading causes of shoulder and back pain in children. Think about how their posture changes when carrying one – they tend to bend forward, their shoulders rolled and their heads come way too far forward (ideally, our ears should be in alignment with our shoulders). This posture causes stress on their spine and muscles that over time could lead to pain, which could either be due to the wrong sized backpack, one not properly adjusted or one that is too heavy.

So I want you to ask yourself these questions to make sure your child has the correct backpack and to follow these recommendations by the American Chiropractic Association.

  • Is the backpack the correct size for your child? The backpack should not be bigger (wider or longer) than the size of your child’s torso. It also should not hang more than 4 inches below their waistline because when it hangs lower than that it increases the weight on the shoulders and causes your child to lean forward when walking.
  • Does the backpack have two wide and padded shoulder straps? These types of straps help protect the neck and shoulder muscles by preventing unnecessary pressure being placed on them and they are more comfortable, unlike non-padded straps.
  • Are the shoulder straps adjustable? The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child’s body. The straps should be pulled tight to minimize the space between the backpack and the child’s back. The backpack should also be evenly centered in the middle of your child’s back.
  • Does your child use both straps? Carrying the backpack using both shoulder straps helps to distribute the weight of the backpack evenly. Lugging a heavy backpack by one strap can cause a disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, low-back pain, and poor posture.
  • Does the backpack have a padded back? A padded back not only provides more comfort, but also protects your child from being poked by sharp edges on school supplies (pencils, rulers, notebooks, etc.) inside the pack.
  • Does the backpack have several compartments? A backpack with individualized compartments helps position the contents most effectively. Make sure that pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on your child’s back, and try to place the heaviest items closet to the body.
  • How heavy is the backpack? It is recommended that a child’s backpack should not weigh more than 10 percent of his/her bodyweight. For example, a child who weighs 100 pounds shouldn’t carry a backpack heavier than 10 pounds, and a 50-pound child shouldn’t carry more than 5 pounds.

Dr. Jessica specializes in chiropractic care for children. If your child reports pain or you notice changes in his/her posture, please give us a call or ask us about your child’s spine when you are in for your regular adjustment.