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Tips for Backpack Success

Many children carry a lot of items in their backpacks each day. These heavy packs can cause chronic back pain if not worn or loaded appropriately. Parents can prevent health challenges by helping their child with their backpack every day. Here are a few tips on avoiding backpack-related injuries:

How much weight should a child carry in a backpack?

A child should carry no more than 15% of his or her body weight. (Example: a child weighs 100 lbs., his/her backpack should not weigh more than 15 lbs.

How should my child load his/her backpack?

Load the heaviest items in the back of the pack first. (For example, textbooks). Secure books and other materials in the backpack to reduce sliding around. Have a backpack that is large enough to hold the necessary items needed for your child daily.

What type of backpack should I buy for my son/daughter?

Pick a backpack with well-padded shoulder straps to reduce too much pressure on the shoulders or neck. If the backpack continues to be too heavy for your child, consider a backpack on wheels to allow your child to pull the weight.

How do I adjust my child’s backpack for the appropriate fit?

Adjust the shoulder straps so the backpack fits snug to your child’s back. Too loose of a backpack can strain his/her muscles. Wear the waist strap of the backpack if available to help distribute the weight more evenly. Adjust the backpack on your child so the pack is resting on the curve of his/her back. It should never be more than 4 inches below your child’s waistline. Make sure your child is wearing both shoulder straps of the backpack, not just one strap. This can cause curving of the spine, pain, and discomfort.

We hope that the tips provided will allow you and your child guidance when purchasing and wearing a backpack to keep your child’s back healthy. If you child does complain of any back or neck pain, please consult your physician or occupational therapist for treatment and appropriate ergonomic wear of a backpack.