3 Ways to Avoid Back-to-School Backpack Pain

By Jean Moorjani, MD, Pediatrician at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children

Backpacks are an indispensable tool for carting around books, computers, tablets and other school necessities. But when they’re overloaded or incorrectly worn, injuries can happen. Kids can suffer from neck, back and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems. Help your kids avoid backpack pain with these pack-smart strategies.

1 - Size it Right

Choose a backpack that is an appropriate fit for your child’s unique size and build. Start with a lightweight version that has two wide and padded shoulder straps, a padded back and a waist strap. These features will help distribute and balance the weight your child carries. Remember, less is more. The larger the backpack, the more your child will put into it. Select a size that carries the essentials, not the extras.

2 - Pack it Light

Pack lightly and avoid overloading. A backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 15 percent of a child’s body weight and only contain items necessary for the day. Place heavier items lower and toward the center of the backpack. To lighten the book load, help your child plan frequent locker stops between classes and consider keeping a second set of school books at home. And if your child is attending classes in-person, be certain to include face coverings and hand sanitizer, placing them in side pockets so they’re easily accessible. 

3 - Wear it Right

Backpacks work best when worn correctly. Tighten the straps to keep the pack closer to your child’s back. The bottom of the backpack should rest no lower than your child’s waist. Be sure kids use both shoulder straps to carry the backpack, so that the pack’s weight is evenly distributed.

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