How To Position Your Backpack
Many school aged kids and their parents are preparing for a return to in person attendance in classrooms for the first time in over a year. One of the issues of concern among the many right now for students and parents, is the reality of kids picking up their backpacks which likely were collecting dust for the prior school year. As doctors of physical therapy, we have extensive experience in managing the problems associated with the often overloaded backpack which has a strong association with reports of back pain. When left unchecked, these incidents of back pain can turn into chronic issues that follow the child into their young adult years. The following studies outline the importance of monitoring a child’s backpack weight to prevent the negative effects on their growing bodies and how to properly fit a backpack for your child.
Based on a 2005 study by Korovessis et al, it was found that girls are 5.6x more likely than boys to suffer from back pain and asymmetrical carrying increased all children’s risk of back pain by 2.9-5x. This study also found that the average weight of children’s backpacks was 22% of their bodyweight when the safe recommended load is 10-15% of their bodyweight (Your child’s weight x 0.10 = Safe backpack weight). It is also recommended that children utilize both backpack straps at the same time as this helps with posture and decreases risk for onset of back pain due to compensating for the weight of the backpack on one side. For children with idiopathic scoliosis, carrying a backpack was shown to decrease their balance and place the child in a position that increases their risk for back pain even more so than a child without idiopathic scoliosis.
Similarly, Ness et al (2003) found that children who carry backpacks that exceed 10% of their body weight and wear their backpack between classes were more likely to experience back pain. The study also found that factors such as an increased body mass index, overall poorer health, wearing the backpack while standing, and increased time spend watching television increased the likelihood an individual would experience back pain.
In the picture to the right, you will find the backpack fit recommendations based on your child’s age. The backpack should not exceed the child’s shoulder width or drop below 2 inches above the waistline. When placing items in the backpack, ensure that the heavier items are in the bottom and lighter items on top which decreases the tendency for the backpack to cause your child to lean forward. BIGGER IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER!
While some of these factors may be difficult to manage, it is important we set our children up for success by following these guidelines as closely as possible. A child’s focus during the school year needs to be on their academics rather than pain in their back. If your child is suffering from an onset of back pain, it is important to address this issue now to prevent further complications down the road. If you have any questions regarding back pain, backpack usage, or other activity with your child, feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.