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What You Need to Know About Backpack Safety

Does your child struggle to carry their heavy backpack to and from school? This National School Backpack Awareness Day, find out what you can do to lighten the load.

September 18, 2019 | HF Healthy Living Team

In support of National School Backpack Awareness Day, make sure your child knows how to wear their backpack safely and properly.

More than 79 million American students wear a backpack, and more than half those backpacks are too heavy. Carrying a heavy backpack daily can cause strain on your child’s muscles and joints and could lead to back pain over time. It can also cause bad posture, knee injuries, and poor circulation.

Your child’s backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 15 percent of their total body weight. This means that if your child weighs 120 pounds, their backpack should weigh no more than 12 to 18 pounds.

Encourage healthy backpack habits with these tips to protect your child from back-related injuries.

Pick the Right Backpack

Depending on your child’s age and grade, find a backpack that fits their needs while providing comfort. You should make sure your child’s backpack has:

  • a lightweight pack
  • two wide, padded shoulder straps
  • a padded back
  • a waist strap
  • and multiple compartments.

In some schools, rolling backpacks may be allowed. However, it can be difficult to carry up and down the stairs and during inclement weather. In any case, talk to your child and learn about their course load and school map. Doing so can help you pick the right backpack that fits their comfort, style, and needs.

Wear Your Backpack Correctly

A backpack should sit comfortably between the base of the neck and the lower back. Make sure you adjust the shoulder and waist straps according to your child’s size. This will help ensure the backpack doesn’t hang too low on their back. If not adjusted properly, loose straps can cause spinal misalignment and pain, according to the American Chiropractic Association.

Also, remind your child should to use both shoulder straps. Wearing a backpack over just one shoulder can cause your child to lean more on one side, which can lead to low back pain or can curve their spine over time.

Pack Smart

While backpacks help your child carry their textbooks and supplies, it’s important to pack right and light. Here are a few things your child can do to take some weight off their shoulders when in school.

  • Use the school locker. Drop off and switch books between breaks to avoid carrying too much.
  • If you don’t need it, leave it behind.
  • Organize your backpack. Pack heaviest items closest to your back.

If your backpack is too full, take out a book or two and carry them in your hands. You can also talk to your child’s teacher and ask if you can either leave a second set of books in class or at home. This will help keep your child’s backpack nice and light.

Know When to Get Help

If your child has back or shoulder pain due to backpack use, call their Primary Care Provider (PCP) for advice. Their PCP may refer you to a chiropractor who can prescribe special exercises to strengthen their back and/or get treatment. To prevent injuries, you can also help your child learn moves to strengthen their lower back.

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© 2019 HF Management Services, LLC.

Healthfirst is the brand name used for products and services provided by one or more of the Healthfirst group of affiliated companies.

This health information or program is for educational purposes only and not intended to treat, diagnose, or act as a substitute for medical advice from your provider. Consult your healthcare provider and always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.

“AOTA’s National School Backpack Awareness Day: September 18, 2019,” The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. Accessed August 29, 2019.

“Backpack Safety,” American Academy of Pediatrics. Accessed August 29, 2019.

“Backpack Safety,” Kids Health. Accessed August 29, 2019.

“Backpack Safety,” American Chiropractic Association. Accessed August 29, 2019.

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