It’s that time of year again, the summer madness is over and normality will resume with the kids going back to school. This time of year can be a very busy, stressful period for parents. There is a lot of running around shopping, picking up after the kids while preparing them for school. In turn, this can be an exciting time for kids, returning to school seeing friends after a long summer and one of the most exciting parts for a lot of kids is getting their new backpack. While carrying a backpack is a great tool for storing all the essentials there is a big debate out there on whether carrying a heavy backpack can put your child at risk of injuring their back or having chronic back pain. Although, there is no evidence that shows a correlation in heavy backpacks and back pain for long term chronic back pain, it is known that in the short term a heavy backpack can cause discomfort or pain in adolescents. So here’s some tips on how you can best manage and help your child if they are complaining of their bags hurting their back.


Wearing the right backpack

  • Choose the right one Look for a backpack with padded straps. While your child might beg for a messenger-style bag because it’s what all the “cool kids” are using, avoid any style that has only one strap that crosses the chest. Using a backpack with one strap puts all the pressure on one shoulder instead of evenly distributing it across two.
  • Wearing a backpack: there’s a right way and a wrong way.  Most kids let their bag hang way too low or slung over one shoulder, but with the ever-increasing book loads, this places extra strain on the spine and shoulders. Tighten the straps enough for the backpack to fit closely to the body. The pack should rest evenly in the middle of the back and not sag down to the buttocks.
  • Pack wisely! Speak to your child about making sure they are only carrying items in their backpack that they need that day. Clean out the pack regularly, so your child doesn’t end up carrying extra weight. Use all of the backpack’s compartments, putting heavier items, such as textbooks, closest to the center of the back. Walking around with a heavy backpack can also affect a child’s posture. The backpack should not weigh more than 15% of the child’s body weight; they should still be able to walk and stand in correct posture, without leaning forward to compensate for the added weight.


Proper posture a must

Proper posture is something that sounds basic, but does not come easily to most people.

  • Teach correct posture.  Good posture while standing is a straight back, squared shoulders, chin up, chest out, stomach in. If you can draw a straight line from your ear lobe through your shoulder, hip, knee, to the middle of your ankle, then you are in good posture.
  • Proper posture throughout the day, but especially while sitting in class: Kids need to make sure that both their feet are planted on the ground, and that their backs are straight. Rounding the spine, or slouching, is a common problem and increases the stress on the spine, leading to back pain.
  • Texting/playing games on a tablet: When we text, or look at a screen on our laps, we are looking down, and on our spine can be put under pressure if we are in this position for a prolonged period of time. Instead of looking down, teach your child to raise the phone or tablet to eye level. With so much time spent looking at mobile devices, the strain over time can cause pain and discomfort.

Physical activity key

  • Staying active helps children maintain a healthy weight, putting less stress on the spine
  • Staying active helps build muscles, which are important for supporting the spine. A strong core is necessary to hold the spine upright.
  • Sitting in class for long periods can cause back pain, so suggest to your child that they should be up and moving as much as possible in between classes.


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Yamato TP1,2,3, Maher CG1,4, Traeger AC1, Wiliams CM2,3,5, Kamper SJ1,3.. (2018 May 2). Do schoolbags cause back pain in children and adolescents? A systematic review.. British Journal Sports Medicine. 1 (2), bjsports-2017-098927.

Preventing Back Pain in Children: Parents Can Help Kids Develop Healthy Spine Habits (n.d.). Retrieved from