Backpack Safety For School Children: What Parents Need To Know

Backpack Safety Tips From Back To Health Chiropractic Centre In Maple, Vaughan.

Maple, ON – Yes, it’s back-to-school time, which makes for a perfect time to talk about backpack safety for kids. Years back when I was in grade school, I don’t recall carrying many books home and certainly never had on overloaded backpack. Today, it seems that backpacks are stuffed with huge binders, textbooks and many other bulky items such as shoes, lunches, pencil cases and electronic devices.

By the time you finish reading this article, you will know what is the impact of your child’s health due to heavy, overloaded backpacks.  You will also be given some key tips to making backpack use more safe for your child so strain and prolonged injury can be prevented.  First, let me put backpack weight in perspective when it comes to carrying backpacks. 

 One day, a child with a backpack came into the chiropractic office. The child weighed about 60 pounds and was carrying a backpack that weighed about 20 pounds.  When the father was told by the chiropractor that his son’s backpack was way too heavy for his child, the father responded, “But it’s only 20 pounds.” 

Now, the father was a 180 pound man, so 20 pounds seemed relatively light to him.  When the father was told, “That 20 pounds for your son  is one third (33%) of his body weight. That would be like you carrying a 60 pound backpack on your back. How would you like to carry 60 pounds on your back?” The father’s answer was obvious, “No way!”.

Backpack Safety Awareness Week At Back To Health Chiropractic Centre September 10-14, 2012

Sometimes we lose perspective on a situation and seems like it’s not big deal.  But when you begin to see the big picture, you will see that it is a big deal.  Heavy backpacks for children can be detrimental, can cause postural distortions and even onset of symptoms.

One study showed that when backpacks weigh 15% or more of the the child’s body weight, it will cause compensating postural changes, such as shifting the head forward.  Even more, at 15% and 20% of the child’s body weight, a backpack will begin to cause discomfort after walking, primarily in the neck region.1

Over time, the continued use of heavy, overloaded backpacks can cause serious postural problems in children even before they get into highschool and college, when the backpacks become even more heavy.

10 Tips To Make Backpack Use In Children Safer


  1. Choose a backpack that has two wide, padded adjustable straps and a waist strap.
  2. Padding on the back side can help provide a cushion between the spine and the backpack contents.
  3. Make sure the backpack fits properly.
  4. When packing the contents, place the bulkier heavier items (textbooks, binders) close to the body and keep the lighter items away from the back.
  5. Use the pockets and compartments to pack smaller items and help distribute the weight.
  6. For children in grade school, grade K-8, the weight should be no more then 10% of their body weight.
  7. For high school students, grade 9-12, the weight should be no more then 15% of their body weight.
  8. Always use both straps.
  9. Use the waist strap to help transfer some of the weight to your hips and reduce back strain.
  10. Don’t carry the backpack too low.  Tighten up the shoulder straps so the backpack is being carried on the upper area of your back.


1. Kistner F et al. Effect Of Backpack Load Carriage On Cervical Posture In Primary Schoolchildren.


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