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Is your child’s backpack making the grade?

By / August 29, 2018

What you need to know about Backpacks


Backpacks are often a “school supply” that we either buy yearly or try and squeak out a few years of use. We tend to make this purchase based on a few things such as style, longevity, and price. It’s just a convenient way to carry their books and supplies, right? WRONG! Did you know that backpacks worn improperly, a poor fit, or overloaded can lead to spinal injury?? SAY WHAT??

Postural dysfunctions; primarily forward head, rounded shoulders, arching back, and leaning forward or to one side can cause poor spinal alignment leading to poor function of the spine (see picture on the far left and far right).

Want some tips on backpack safety?

  • Wear BOTH straps! This is a big one. One strap places more weight on one side of the body leading to increased weight bearing through one side and a postural shift (see picture on the left). Wearing BOTH straps distributes load EVENLY and symmetry for postural alignment achieved (see center picture).
  • Wear the backpack over mid-back muscles…why? Because they are the STRONGEST! You want the backpack resting on mid back and NOT over the buttocks and arms should be able to move FREELY.
  • Lighten the LOAD! Keep the total weight between 10-15% of student’s body weight. Place heaviest items closer to the back to promote correct postural alignment.

Overloaded backpack WARNING signs:

  • Student’s posture CHANGES when wearing the backpack
  • Struggling with putting on and taking backpack off
  • Student complaining of pain when wearing backpack or at the end of the school day
  • Tingling in arms (or legs) but mostly arms
  • Red marks on the shoulders after wearing backpack for ANY amount of time

What should we look for when purchasing a backpack?

  • Wide straps
  • Padded Back
  • Hip and chest clips
  • Multiple compartments
  • Reflective material

If in doubt a Physical Therapist can evaluate the backpacks fit for each student individually. Physical Therapists can also evaluate and treat pain, muscle strain/fatigue, and postural alignment concerns with poor backpack use/fit. Apex Physical Therapy has YOUR BACK!


Here is a helpful video from the Move Forward/APTA website on Backpack Safety for Kids