Aching backs and shoulders? Tingling arms? Weakened muscles? Stooped posture? Does your child have these symptoms after wearing a heavy school backpack? Carrying too much weight in a pack or wearing it the wrong way can lead to pain and strain. We can take steps to help children load and wear backpacks the correct way to avoid health problems.


Loading a Backpack


– Backpacks should weigh no more than about 10% of a kid’s body weight.

– If a child is 40 pounds, their backpack should weigh no more than 4 pounds.

– Put the heaviest items closest to the child’s back or the back of the backpack

– Arrange items in the backpack so they will not slide around

– Only put things they need in the backpack

– If the backpack is too heavy or tightly packed, have the child carry an item outside of the backpack in their arms

– Consider using a rolling book bag if the backpack is too heavy on a daily basis


Wearing a Backpack


– Use both shoulder straps so weight is spread out evenly. Using only one strap can make your child to lean to one side which causes the spine to curve and results in pain and discomfort

– Use a backpack with well-padded shoulder straps

– Adjust straps so the backpack fits snug on the back. If a backpack hangs loosely, it can pull kids backwards and strain muscles

– Wear the waist belt to help spread out the weight more evenly

– The bottom of the backpack should rest in the curve of the lower back. It should never be more than 4 inches below the waist.

– Choose the right size backpack! Make sure it fits correctly and has enough room for all needed school items


-Kayla House, OT

Backpack Strategies for Parents and Students
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