Doctors’ Notes


Backpack Safety

For kids in school, it’s important to remember some key points about backpack safety.

As homework and tests pile up, it’s easy for kids to jam as many materials into their backpack as they can. Doing this can cause some serious orthopedic issues, mainly to the back, neck, and shoulders. It may even cause headaches, due to the increase in pressure and strain on the neck. Here are some general guidelines and helpful hints that you and your children can follow to minimize the strain on their body as the school year continues.


Wear Both Straps

Utilizing both straps is best for even distribution of the weight of the books that your child will carry. If the backpack is only worn on one side, it may increase the stress and torque on the shoulder and upper back.

Proper Length & Width of Straps 

A lot of kids wear their straps really loose, which can cause your child to excessively lean forward, straining their low back muscles (especially if the load is too heavy). If the straps are too tight, they may struggle with getting their pack on and off, straining their shoulders. Ideally, positioning the straps at a comfortable length will help distribute the weight where the strongest lower back muscles are located, decreasing the likelihood of injury. Using wide straps will also help distribute the weight of the backpack and be more comfortable on your child’s shoulders.


Making sure that the load your child is carrying is not to heavy is one of the most important things to keep in mind. Research suggests that the ideal weight for children is between10 and 15% of their body weight. When a child carries too much on his/her back, especially if worn incorrectly, it can drastically increase the chance for injury. Also: put the largest objects on the side closest to the back, for best weight distribution.

Other Helpful Hints

• Help your child pick out a backpack to ensure that it fits your approval.

• If conditions don’t warrant light loads, consider a rolling back pack. This will drastically decrease the strain on the back and neck.

• Possibly use another or old back pack to break up the load. If they can pack their morning materials in one, use the other for the afternoon materials to save time and strain on the body. This will help decrease the likelihood of packing everything into one bag.

• Take a few minutes before going to bed to look at what materials and books are needed for the next day. This will decrease the chances of carrying unnecessary materials to and from school.

• If your child develops back, neck or shoulder pain during the school year, don’t wait to take action. Speak to a qualified health provider to solve the problem before it gets out of control.

Guest author Dan Schaus is a physical therapist with Oakmont Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy Center.