Dr. H. Robert Tuten, Tuckahoe Orthopaedics, Orthopedics, PediatricBy H. Robert Tuten, MD

Backpacks are a convenient way to transport everyday items, but they’re not without their risks. While there’s no evidence to link improper backpack use to permanent spinal problems such as scoliosis or curvature of the spine, there is evidence that backpacks can cause back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as poor posture.

Follow these 10 backpack safety tips to help your child avoid backpack pain.

1. Choose the Right Capacity

Select a backpack with an appropriate capacity for your child. The smaller your child, the smaller their backpack should be.

2. Look for Padding

Choose a backpack with two padded shoulder straps and a padded back. Padding helps reduce pressure and prevents the backpack from digging into the back, neck, and shoulders.

3. Use Both Shoulder Straps To Eliminate Back Pain

Encourage your child to use both straps to distribute the weight of the load over their shoulders. Carrying a backpack over one shoulder can cause muscle and joint strain.

4. Wear a Backpack Waist Strap

Look for a backpack with a waist strap that allows your child to hold his or her backpack closer to the body. Backpacks that hang too low or too loosely can pull your child backwards.

5. Don’t Overload

Remind your child to unpack and repack the bag every night to ensure it only contains necessary items. Also, make sure you encourage your child to make frequent trips to their locker to drop off heavy items and textbooks, if possible.

6. Pack A Light Backpack

Keep your child’s backpack weight within 10-15 percent of total body weight. If your child weighs 50 pounds, the backpack should weigh no more than eight pounds when full.

7. Try A Wheeled Backpack to Prevent Back Pain

If your child has a lot to carry, consider a rolling backpack. This type of bag is a good option for transporting heavy loads.

8. Choose the Right Length

Measure your child’s torso to determine the ideal backpack size. An appropriately sized backpack extends from about two inches below the shoulder blades to no more than four inches below the waist.

9. Distribute the Load 

Organize the backpack so that heavy items are closest to the center of the back. Use all of the compartments to distribute the weight of the load evenly.

10. Adjust to Fit Your Child’s Back 

Reposition the shoulder straps so they fit snug against your child’s body. The straps shouldn’t be so tight that they dig into the shoulders.

When used properly, backpacks shouldn’t cause back pain in kids. If, despite taking precautions, your child complains of back pain or you observe your child slouching or leaning to one side, it’s important to take it seriously.

Contact Tuckahoe Orthopaedics to schedule an appointment to discuss your concerns with our orthopedic specialists.