The Best Backpack for Your Child

The summer holidays is winding down; all that special time with family and friends, sleeping in, lazy days of sunshine and fun.  Now it’s time to get excited about the start of a new school year.  It will be so much fun getting back with friends and classmates, making new friends, choosing after- school activities, joining sports teams and getting ready to learn a bunch of new stuff.

Part of the getting back to the school routine is checking out or purchasing a new backpack.  According the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia (CAA), daily backpack carrying is a frequent cause of pain and discomfort for school children:  

  • 79.1% of children felt school backpacks were heavy
  • 65.7% found school backpacks cause fatigue and
  • 46.1% found they caused back pain

Research reveals that the children themselves may exacerbate the problems by not using the backpack correctly.

  • 75% of Australian schoolchildren do not use the ergonomic features built into their school backpacks.
  • 79% of school bags are full to the point of being over-packed and bulging.
  • 90% of school children have bad posture while carrying their school bags

The bad posture may be the result of leaning forward trying to cope with the heavy bag, using just one strap or carrying the bag too low.  Poor posture can cause stress on a child’s spine and may result in both short-term discomfort due to muscle strain and long-term health issues.

Here are some important features to look for when purchasing a backpack:

  • The length of the pack should be no greater than the child’s torso (top of shoulders to waist).
  • The backpack should be no wider than the chest.
  • The bag should have two wide, padded and comfortable shoulder straps which can be adjusted so the bag will sit with the top at shoulder height and the bottom at the waist
  • The pack should have a waist belt which fits so the weight rests on the pelvis.
  • The bag should contain several compartments for easy packing.

Once you have chosen the most comfortable bag, help your child to pack the bag sensibly:

  • Preferably the bag should weigh no more than 10% of your child’s body weight. Consider what is needed each day and leave unneeded texts and clothing either in a locker or at home
  • Place heavier items on the bottom of the bag, as close to the spine as possible.
  • Reinforce the importance of wearing the bag on BOTH shoulders.

If you have any questions about how to fit your child’s backpack, please ask.  Bring the pack in when you next come in for an adjustment, so we can check it out.  Remember – We are here to help!

Reference: 1. Negrini, S., & Carabalona, R (2002). Backpacks on! Schoolchildren’s Perceptions of Load, Associations with Back Pain and Factors Determing the Load. Spine, 27(2), 187-195.