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  • Leah Fischer, PT, DPT

Attack of the Backpack


School is in full swing, which means homework and carrying large books. All of this in one backpack adds up to a lot of weight for kids to carry. If a backpack does not fit the child or if the backpack is not worn correctly, it can be detrimental to a child’s posture and lead to back pain. Below are a few suggestions for improving the fit of a backpack and ensure our children stay healthy while transporting important schoolwork.

Fitting a backpack

  • Straps: The straps of the backpack should be at least 2” wide with padding. The straps

allow for improved distribution of weight. When straps are narrow, there is less room for the weight to be distributed; and therefore, more force is placed on the back. Other features on a backpack that assist with distributing the load include a chest strap and a waist strap. These straps are not absolutely necessary, however, if a child or teenager is required to carry a lot of books, these additional straps may decrease the likelihood of him/her experiencing back pain.

  • Length: The backpack should not extend more than a few inches below the waistline or belly button, and the top of the pack should be even with the shoulders.

  • Width: Ideally, the backpack should not be wider than the kid.

Wearing a backpack

  • Tighten the straps to decrease the amount of pull on the shoulders and back. Kids often feel like it is “cool” to keep their straps longer, however, this adds a lot of stress to their back and often causes them to lean forward when carrying their backpack. With the straps properly tightened it should be flat against the back.

  • It is also important to wear both shoulder straps to displace the weight of the backpack evenly across both shoulders and the entire back.

Loading the backpack

  • Kids and teens are required to carry a lot of materials to and from school on a daily basis. It is important that they only carry what is absolutely necessary to decrease the amount that is in the backpack as much as possible.

  • Place the heaviest items (i.e. textbooks and binders) in the pocket closest to the back. The lighter items can be placed in the additional pockets that are farther from the back. The closer a heavy load is to the body, the easier it is for the body to carry.

  • When a backpack is fully loaded, it should not exceed 10-15% of a child’s body weight. If a child must carry more weight, have them carry a textbook or two in their arms.

Carrying a backpack that is too heavy or not properly worn can lead to poor posture and back pain. If your child or teen is experiencing back pain, we are here to help. The physical therapists at Synergy Family Therapy Specialists are dedicated to assessing your child’s body and determining specific interventions that will help your child feel better. The earlier back pain is addressed, the less likely it is to become a chronic problem. Children are young to be experiencing back pain, so please help keep their back healthy!

#BackpackSafety #BackpackUse #HowtoWearaBackpack #BackSupport

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