Backpack Safety

Backpack Safety

We offer free fittings - stop by anytime!

Fall is a busy time, as parents get ready for the school year. Class supplies, haircuts, and new shoes are priorities, but it should also be a time to brush up on the importance of backpack safety. An estimated 6,000 students are sent to emergency rooms each year due to backpack related injuries. Oftentimes these injuries could be avoided if the child’s pack fit properly. Stop by anytime with your child and their backpack for a free fitting.

66% of school nurses reported seeing students with pain or injury attributed to carrying backpacks. In addition, 60% of children will experience back pain by the time they reach 18.


Attempt to keep backpack weight to 15% of your child’s body weight. This means a child who weighs 100 pounds shouldn’t wear a backpack heavier than 15 pounds.

Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back and arrange books and materials to prevent them from sliding.

Always wear both shoulder straps. Wearing only one strap can cause a child to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort.

Select a backpack with well-padded shoulder straps. Pressure on shoulders and necks can cause pain and tingling. Extra padding can be added.

Check what your child carries to school and brings home to make sure the items are necessary to the day’s activities.

Choose the right size backpack for your child’s back as well as one with enough room for necessary school items.

If the backpack is too heavy, consider using a book bag on wheels if your child’s school allows it – a good idea for the little ones.

Parents should encourage their child or teenager to tell them about pain or discomfort. Do not ignore any back pain in a child or teenager. Ask your pediatrician for advice.

Adjust the shoulder straps so that the backpack fits snuggly to the child’s back. The bottom of the backpack 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 weight more evenly.

How Northern Physical Therapy Can Help
We can help you choose a proper backpack and fit it specifically to your child. Children come in all shapes and sizes, and some have physical limitations that require special adaptations.

Additionally, a physical therapist can help improve posture problems, correct muscle imbalances, and treat pain that can result from improper backpack use. We can also design individualized fitness programs to help children get strong and stay strong—and carry their own loads! Stop by any of our clinics to get your child fitted properly for their backpack. It only takes a few minutes, and its free.

These tips are recommended by the American Academy of Orthopedics, and the American Physical Therapy Association.

A fitted backpack makes all the difference, especially when traveling

“As an avid traveler who prefers a large backpack over a suitcase, I’ve endured many days overseas with sore shoulders and an aching back. I finally decided to enlisted the help of a professional. I purchased a bag that was designed to fit my body type and had it properly fitted. I was amazed at the difference. I could carry the pack all day and because the weight was distributed on my hips, I never felt an ounce of back or shoulder pain. In fact, I never felt any discomfort anywhere in my entire body. I’m pleased to say that I’ve taken that fitted pack with me on every trip I’ve gone on over the last five years and I’m still incredibly pleased.” – Andrea S., Cedar Springs patient

Backpack fittings aren't just for kids. Avid hikers and travelers can get fitted and benefit tremendously.