Whether your children are starting or returning back to school many parents are buying new backpacks in preparation for the new academic year. We think it’s very important to take in to consideration how your child is wearing the backpack as well as the type/style of the bag itself. Therefore I thought I’d share some practical tips on how backpacks can have an effect on specific areas of the body and what can be done to help.


Type and fitting
There are so many different styles of backpacks, some are our beloved Superheroes or even in the shape of animals, but whatever shape or size, it’s important to make sure that it was manufactured for children. Sounds bizarre, but children’s backpacks are made with lightweight materials in comparison to adult backpacks. The backpack should be close to the body with no space in between the backpack and the child whatsoever and the size should be a similar size to the child’s torso and dropping a couple of inches below the waistline.
It may have been cool back in the 90’s to wear the backpack on one shoulder but I strongly advise against this. Use both shoulders to offload the stress on one side of the spine and if you can, find a backpack with wide straps to distribute the load across the shoulders evenly.

Backpacks should be between 10-15% of a child’s weight, anymore and this can lead to injury or strains through overloading or even balance issues during walking or going up and down stairs. Try to pack the heavier items such as textbooks and water bottles towards the bottom and closest to the back, and use the different compartments to your advantage by spreading the weight evenly so that the majority of the load isn’t on one side. Some backpacks come with waist straps that can help distribute the weight too.

Upper and Lower Back
Back pain in children is increasingly prevalent and is seen to increase with age although significantly less common than adults. This is still an issue that faces many medical professionals. It is suggested that preventing back pain in children may prevent or delay future incidence as adults.
If the backpack is too heavy then it can cause the child to lean forward slightly which increases the forward head posture. This may create neck and shoulder pain as well as overworked muscles in the mid-lower back, this is especially relevant if your child has a long walk to and from school as your child will be carrying their bag for extended periods causing potential fatigue.

The stability of our shoulders relies on the strength of its muscles and if there is too much load and pressure on the shoulders then once again the muscles become inhibited and weak. This may lead to muscle strains and complications in the shoulder joint itself. Once again even distribution will help take the pressure off the shoulders.

It can be common for a child to lean forwards to compensate for the heavy backpack pulling them backwards. This can cause soreness in the hips and this is why it is important to fit the backpack as close to the back as possible to prevent extra leverage.

If the backpack is on one shoulder or carrying too much weight then it may alter the biomechanics of a child’s walk. If a child pivots or twists e.g. playing football or running whilst wearing a backpack this can cause pain or injury to the knees. It’s helpful to remind children not to wear the backpack when playing sport or games – after all you need them for goal posts don’t you?!

Advice for children
•    AroEncourage children to use their trays or lockers as much as they can
•   Children don’t need to take unnecessary items such as their laptops, TV’s, kitchen sinks etc. to school with them
•   Bring homework home when it is given, instead of bringing it all home on Fridays
•   Lifting the backpack up correctly, using both hands and bending at the knees will help avoid injuries.

At Bury St Edmunds Osteopaths we see people who experience many injuries following on from factors such as overloading and biomechanical issues and therefore if your child has persistent back pain, numbness or weakness then for further advice, information, assessment and treatment please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us using the information below:

Bury St Edmunds Osteopaths
Call 01284 769153
Email appts@buryosteopaths.co.uk