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How to Prevent Your Child's Backpack from Becoming Your Child's Back Ache

10 things parents should know to prevent injuries

School is just around the corner, so it can be a very busy time for students and parents to start buying school supplies and school clothes for the new school year. One piece of equipment, which is often overlooked, is the essential backpack. 

Does your child look like one of these pictures when they head off to school?


Then this article is for you to improve the future of your child’s spine.

Backpacks are routinely bought because of how pretty they are, what super hero or cartoon character is on them, or how much can they hold. These are all very important to your child, but there are a few more criteria that parents should be looking at:

Top 10 things to know about a backpack to prevent injuries:

  1. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a backpack should not weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the child’s body weight. If the child is complaining of discomfort, always keep it less than 10 percent of their body weight.
  2. Put heavier items closer to the child’s body in the backpack, so that it does not pull the backpack away from their spine.
  3. Parents should pick up their child’s backpack on a regular basis to feel its weight.
  4. Backpacks should be worn with one strap on each shoulder, not hanging off one shoulder.  Use the abdominal strap if one is provided.
  5. The backpack’s straps should be fitted snuggly over the child’s shoulders.
  6. Make sure the backpack is positioned literally on the back - between the shoulders - and not resting on the child’s lower back or hips.
  7. Have the appropriate size backpack. If the straps are tight and the back pack hangs down past the hips, the back pack is too big for this child.  It should rest above the hip line.
  8. If your child has pain in their shoulders, neck or back- there are options with back packs with wheels.You might also ask the school to provide one set of books for school and one set for home.  These modifications sometimes require a physician note for the school.
  9. If your child has more to carry than is recommended for the backpack, they can carry some items in their hands to balance the weight on the body. Make sure that they are not carrying more than 10 percent of their body weight.
  10. If your child is complaining of pain after the backpack is removed and does not go away, seek a physician consult.

Please check out the below links to assist you with keeping your child happy and healthy this upcoming school year!

Dana S. Harrison, PT, MPT, Cook Children’s SPORTS Program/Rehab Manager

Related links:

About the author

Dana Harrison, PT, MPT is Cook Children’s SPORTS program/Rehab manager. Our physicians, therapists, nurses and technologists work exclusively with kids and understand the unique needs of a growing athlete's bones, muscles, body and mind.

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