Avoid Back to School Back Pain This School Year
BeneFIT Physical Therapy how to wear a school backpack

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As August comes to a close, school is just on the horizon. It’s time start thinking about back to school shopping. After all the new clothes, sneakers, and other supplies don’t forget to pay extra attention on the most important school supply: the backpack.

Frequently, children can experience pain in their necks, upper back, or shoulders from carrying too much weight in an ill-fitting backpack.  More than 79 million students carry backpacks to school and of those approximately 55% carry more than the recommended weight allowance.

A new study by (Souza Santos et al., 2022) found back pain in three in every ten school aged children. An additional study by the University of California found even higher prevalence. The study indicated 64% of kids 11 to 15 reported having back pain associated with their backpacks and a whopping 21% stating the pain lasted longer than six months.  On the other side, another study showed that 8 out of 10 middle school kids reported less pain in their backs, necks, or shoulders once they changed the loading of their backpack.

Changes to Implement this School Year

Fortunately, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) offers up a few tips to help your child shoulder their load:

  • Don’t let your child carry more than 10-20% of their body weight.
  • Do load the heaviest items closest to their back (the back of the pack)
  • Do arrange things so they won’t slide around
  • Do check what your kid brings to school and home making sure only the necessary things are packed
    BeneFIT Physical Therapy how to wear a school backpack

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  • Do look into a pack with wheels if your school will allow it.
  • Do use BOTH shoulder straps at ALL times.
  • Do pick a pack with padded shoulder straps
  • Do adjust the shoulder straps making the pack fit snugly to your child’s back without any sliding from side to side as that motion of the pack could cause chaffing.
  • Do wear the waist belt if the pack has one.
  • Do make sure the bottom of the pack rests in the curve of your child’s lower back/never more than four inches below their waistline.

If pain or soreness persists have your child talk to their school’s Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Nurse, or Doctor sooner rather than later for help.

Contact Us!

In fact, New Jersey has direct access that can get you in for evaluation without you having to see a doctor. In short, calling us directly can end up saving you both time and money!

Call us to schedule an evaluation at one of BeneFIT’s locations, Bridgewater (908.203.5200) or Chester (908.879.5700)  with one of our highly trained Doctors of Physical Therapy or check us out on Instagram!



Souza Santos, V., Nascimento Leite, M., Aparecida Camargo, B. I., Saragiotto, B. T., Kamper, S. J., & Yamato, T. P. (2022). Three in every 10 school-aged children in Brazil report back pain in any given year: 12-month prospective cohort study of prevalence, incidence and prognosis. The Journal of orthopaedic and sports physical therapy, 1-32. doi:10.2519/jospt.2022.10819