The Kids are Going Back to School but Do they have the Right Back Pack?

As summer draws to a close, it is almost “Back to School” time and after nearly 6 months away from the classroom, this year it feels like there more on the “to do” list than usual to get the kids ready. The government are encouraging children to walk to school wherever possible – partly to aid social distancing but also to encourage more physical activity particularly as children will have been less active whilst staying at home. More walking to school means more carrying of school bags and as Chiropractors, we want to make sure children are carrying them safely as using a backpack incorrectly can contribute to future spinal problems.


So let us explore what to watch out for and how your child can best use a backpack.


It is thought that a backpack with increased weight alters a child’s posture and can distort the natural curves of the spine. This can result in altered spinal function, muscle fatigue and pain. The child may also develop a forward head posture which is a postural distortion commonly seen in Chiropractic practice with adults.


The way a bag is carried can change their walking patterns as well as altering their posture when standing. Carrying a bag on one shoulder, whether a backpack or sports bag, promotes a lateral bend in the spine, where using two straps (that is one over each shoulder) does not.


These unnatural postures, if repeated frequently as they are over the school life of a child, may eventually lead to spinal injury and symptoms. Generally, unless there is pain, the posture and bag-carrying techniques are never addressed which can lead to longer term problems.



The Chiropractors Association of Victoria, Australia has made a set of recommendations for wearing backpacks which we have listed here:


  • Backpacks should be no heavier than 10-15% of the child’s body weight when packed.
  • The backpack should be sturdy and appropriately sized – no wider than the child’s chest.
  • Putting comfort and fit at the top of the priority list, rather than good looks.
  • Choosing a pack with broad, padded shoulder straps.
  • Using both shoulder straps – never sling the pack over one shoulder.
  • Using the waist straps attached – they’re there for a very good reason.
  • Not wearing the backpack any lower than the hollow of the lower back
  • Not overloading the backpack – use school lockers and plan homework well in advance.
  • Placing all heavy items at the base of the pack, close to the spine.
  • Using compression straps and also using the inner pockets rather than the outermost pockets, to keep the load close to the spine.



Our Top 5 Important features in choosing a backpack are:


  • Make sure it is the correct size; it should not be too low or too wide,
  • The shoulder straps are well-padded and wide.
  • Compression straps on the side which are also useful to stabilise the contents
  • A waist strap to take the load on the hips which should rest just on top of the waist bones and should not be too tight; with the waist strap attached there should not be significant weight on the shoulders, enabling two fingers to be inserted under the straps with the pack on.
  • Depending on the size of the backpack it is useful to have internal compartments to separate and stabilise the load.


The actions we take today will determine our health for tomorrow. So while encouraging our children to exercise and walk to school it is important to make sure they get the most benefit possible by wearing their properly fitted and, of course, trendy backpack!

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