Proper backpack fit is important for the health and safety of your child, and can often be overlooked in the hustle and bustle of going back to school once summer break draws to a close. As practical as backpacks are, they can strain muscles and joints and may cause back pain if they’re too heavy or are used incorrectly.


It’s important to wear both straps, use of one strap causes one side of the body to bear the weight of the backpack. By wearing two shoulder straps, the weight of the backpack is more evenly distributed. Also, pay close attention to the way in which the backpack is positioned, it should rest evenly in the middle of the back.   Straps should not be too loose, and the backpack should not extend below the low back. Straps should be adjusted to allow students to put on and take off the backpack without difficulty, and allow the arms to move freely. Another helpful tip is to carry only the items that are required for the day. Organize the contents of the backpack by placing the heaviest items closest to the back.

Improper backpack use can lead to poor posture. The spine is made of 33 bones called vertebrae, and between the vertebrae are discs that act as natural shock absorbers. When a heavy weight, such as a backpack, is incorrectly placed on the shoulders it can pull the student backward. To compensate, students may bend forward at the hips or arch the back. This action can cause the spine to compress unnaturally. Carrying loads that are heavier in proportion to the students body weight can be the cause of bad posture habits. No matter how well-designed the backpack, doctors and physical therapists recommend that students only pack their bag at 10-15%, or less, of the their bodyweight.

If your child has back pain or weakness in the arms and legs, talk to your doctor or physical therapist. A simple solution could make all the difference in a happy and healthy school year.