More and more demands are being placed on our school children. This includes the loads they are required to carry to and from school. It is recommended that children do not carry more than 10% of their body weight in a backpack, however a recent Australian study found up to 61% of school children aged 12-17 carry more than this recommended amount. This increased load and poorly fitting backpacks can increase your child’s risk for developing shoulder, neck or back pain during these years and often beyond.

Choosing the Right Backpack

-          Wide shoulder straps that are comfortable, padded and fit well on the shoulder

-          Backpack should be made of a solid material to prevent sagging

-          Waist and chest strap attachements that can help to transfer the load to the hips and pelvis

-          A padded back support to enable the pack to fit closely on the back

-          A bag with multiple compartments to distribute the load evenly

-          The backpack itself should be lightweight to avoid additional load on your child’s shoulders, neck and back.

Fitting/Position of Load

-          The backpack must fit at the time of purchase. Avoid purchasing a backpack that your child will ‘grow in to’

-          Ensure straps are not too tight so that it is uncomfortable or digs in to the underarms

-          The backpack should not sit any lower than the arch in your child’s lower back

-          The backpack should not be wider than your child’s chest

-          Keep the load close to the spine. The heaviest items should be placed closest to the spine

-          The top of the backpack should not exceed 3cm higher than the shoulders. Your child should be able to look towards the ceiling without hitting their head on the bag

-          The total load should not exceed 10% of your child’s body weight

-          Encourage your child to use both shoulder straps, rather than slinging the backpack over one shoulder. This will help to avoid excessive load on one shoulder and help to avoid your child leaning to one side

Planning ahead

-          Get your child to fill the pack at table level.

-          Ensure your child is participating in regular physical activity to ensure strong muscles and spine

-          Ensure your child is organized when packing their bag and only take essential folders and books that are really needed for that day

-          Ensure separate folders for each subject to ensure your child is only bringing home the homework they actually need

If your child is experiencing neck, shoulder or back pain related to their schoolbag or by other means, contact the clinic on 5334 1113 or book online to make an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists and get a correct fitting of your child’s school bag.

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice and is used for educational purposes only. If you are having pain or health related complaints, please seek out a licensed healthcare professional.