BHealthy Blog

Heavy and Improperly Worn Backpacks Can Have Adverse Effects on Students

It’s time for most kids to head back to school – and one thing nearly all of them will be taking with them is a backpack.

Backpacks are great for carrying everything your child needs in school, but improper wear and fit in the long term can lead to more pain for your child than a night with too much homework!

Choosing a backpack that fits properly and understanding how to wear it correctly are important for the health and safety of your child, and each year the experts in Baptist Health’s physical therapy departments want to make sure your kids are not doing damage as they head back and forth to school every day lugging a heavy backpack.

A backpack that fits poorly, is too heavy, or worn incorrectly can cause problems with posture; pain in the neck, arms or back; or even lead to lifelong injury. To help prevent these problems, the American Physical Therapy Association has developed guidelines parents can use to assist them in selecting and wearing backpacks properly.

Guidelines for Wearing Backpacks

Wear both straps. Use of one strap causes one side of the body to bear the weight of the backpack. By wearing two shoulder straps, the weight of the backpack is better distributed.

Wear the backpack over the strongest mid-back muscles. Pay close attention to the way the backpack is positioned on the back. It should rest evenly in the middle of the back. Shoulder straps should be adjusted to allow the student to put on and take off the backpack without difficulty and allow free movement of the arms. Straps should not be too loose, and the backpack should not extend below the low back.

Lighten the load. Keep the load at 10 to 15 percent or less of the student’s bodyweight. Carry only those items that are required for the day. Organize the contents of the backpack by placing the heaviest items closest to the back. Some students have two sets of books so as not to have to carry the heavy books to and from school.

Backpack Selection

Choose a backpack with two wide, padded shoulder straps. This protects the shoulders, prevents nerve injury, and improves comfort.

Choose a backpack with a padded back. This protects the back from objects in the pack.

Choose a backpack with waist and chest straps. This helps to distribute the weight evenly.

Choose a lightweight material. Heavy materials like leather can make the pack too heavy.

Warning Signs of Potential Back Problems

• Posture changes while wearing backpack
• Pain when wearing backpack
• Numbness or  tingling in the arms
• Red marks on the child’s shoulders
• Struggling to get backpack on or off

Baptist Health physical therapists want children to have a pain-free year from carrying backpacks, but if your student’s symptoms persist, seek help at a Baptist Health Therapy Center in order to correct the problem before it gets worse.