Kids and Backpacks

The start of school is right around the corner and if you haven’t yet you will be out buying all the school supplies for the upcoming year.  One of the most important items on that back to school shopping list should be the backpack.  Bad 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 (1) and of those approximately 55% carry more than the recommended weight allowance (2).  In fact one study demonstrated 64% of kids 11 to 15 reported having back pain associated to their backpacks with 21% stating the pain lasted longer than 6 months (3).  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 back pack (4).

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% 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

Nice Backpack

  • 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.
  • 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.


1.  American Community Survey. 2007 American Community survey 1-year estimates. Retrieved May 14, 2009, from
2. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database (2007).  Numbers quoted are estimated figures.
3. UC Newsroom, University of California. (2004, August 26). Back to school; heavy packs endager kids’ health, study shows [Press Release]. Retrieved May 14, 2009, from
4. Feingold, A.J., & Jacobs, K. The Effect of education on backpack wearing and posture in a middle school population. Work, 18, 287-294.