Wear your backpack with style—and the right support.

By Natasha Persaud

Backpack Image - Masterfile

Kids pack just about everything in their backpacks today. But, an overloaded or improperly worn pack can sometimes lead to backaches and even injuries. That's the reason The American Occupational Therapy Association hosts National School Backpack Awareness Day: To teach students to "Pack It Light, and Wear It Right!"

Follow the Association's tips to prevent your child from experiencing back pain:

Buy the Right Backpack

Kids always want the most stylish backpacks, but consider these factors too.

  • Choose the Right Size: When worn, the backpack should sit two inches below the shoulder blades and extend to waist level, or slightly above the waist (in the curve of the lower back). Avoid long backpacks that hang lower.
  • Look for well-padded shoulder straps. Cushioning reduces the pressure on the neck and shoulders and the chances of nerve irritation, pain and tingling.
  • Consider a bookbag on wheels if the school allows it.

Pack It Light

  • Carry no more than 10 percent of body weight. This means a fourth-grader who weighs 80 pounds shouldn't wear a backpack heavier than 8 pounds.
  • Load the heaviest items closest to a youngster’s back (the inside of the backpack at the rear). Arrange the rest of his or her books and materials so nothing slides around. Evenly distribute the weight.
  • Check what your child carries to school and brings home to make sure the items are necessary to the day's activities.

Wear It Right

  • Wear both shoulder straps. Hanging a bookbag on one shoulder causes a youngster to lean, curving the spine and causing discomfort.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly to the child's back. The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back, never more than four inches below the child's waistline.
  • Use the waist belt, if the backpack has one, to help distribute the pack's weight more evenly.
  • If a student is experiencing back pain or neck soreness, consult the pediatrician or an occupational therapist.


The American Occupational Therapy Association

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 17 Sep 2012

Last Modified: 26 Feb 2015