Backpacks are unavoidable for school aged children, even though they can lead to or enhance back pain and bad posture. When worn correctly though, one can reduce the chance of back pain or bad posture habits from backpacks.
Compared to shoulder bags, messenger bags or purses, backpacks are better because the strongest muscles in the body — the back and the abdominal muscles — support the weight of the packs. The weight in the backpack should be evenly distributed across the body, and shoulder.
The checklist below has been developed to assist individuals to undertake a review of their child’s backpack use.
32 Questions You Should Ask About Your Child’s Backpack
Loading the Bag
- Does the backpack have separate compartments? If it does, use the compartments to pack heavier objects closer to the body.
- Do these compartments allow the contents to be securely arranged? Ensure objects are secure and not free to move about the backpack.
- Have you selected the most appropriate sized backpack for your child? Always use the smallest backpack that will suit your child’s needs.
- Can your child use a backpack with built in wheels to minimise the load carried? Can you purchase a bag that has wheels to avoid the need to carry the backpack at all times?
- Is the load comfortable and safely stored? Sharp or hard objects should be packed in such a fashion that they do not come in contact with the body.
- Is the backpack being handled correctly? Does your child bend their knees to lift the backpack? The most ergonomic backpack is still bad, if lifted incorrectly. Ensure your child lifts with their knees rather than their back.
Weight of the Bag
- Is the weight of the backpack when loaded appropriate for your child? Guidelines suggest the overall weight of backpacks should be between 10-15% of the child’s weight. It definitely should not exceed 20% of the child’s weight. Adults can tolerate larger loads.
- Does your child lean forward when they are carrying their backpack? This is a sign there is too much weight in the backpack.
- Is the backpack made of durable and appropriate materials? Try to purchase a lighter backpack to assist in reducing the weight carried. Consider the materials used in its production, ensure it has been constructed from strong, durable and light materials.
- Does the backpack offer support for the lower back? Purchase a backpack that supports the lower back. Ideally, this will be a frame of some kind that follows the contour of the lumbar spine and provides support.
- Does the backpack have a waist strap? Waist straps are important for keeping the backpack stable and reducing excess movement, which can increase discomfort and fatigue.
- Do the shoulder straps allow for adjustment to fit your child? Shoulder straps need to be adjusted to ensure the backpack can be kept close to the body.
- Does your child try to one-shoulder it? Always use both shoulders to carry the backpack.
- Is the padding appropriately located? Padding needs to be located at all of the major contact points where the backpack meets the body.
- Is the padding sufficient thickness? Padding needs to be thick enough to be comfortable but not so thick that it produces a poor fit.
- How often do you clean out your child’s backpack? Be sure you are regularly checking your child’s backpack to remove excess clutter that might reduce available space or restrict correct loading.
- How hygienic is your child’s backpack? Food and other materials left in the backpack can increase wear and tear, which reduce its life span.
- Is your child’s backpack appropriately packed? Ask your child’s teacher regarding what your child needs to take to school opposed of what they can keep at home.
- Does everything really need to be there? Can equipment for special activities (i.e. swimming, library day) be carried separately?
- Are there heavy objects that are going to be in your child’s backpack all day? Perhaps a separate bag could be used for a laptop or other heavy equipment to prevent it needing to be carried all day.
- Can your child determine what they need to take to school? Teach you child about how to minimise the load they carry.
- How much time does your child spend wearing the backpack? Ensure your child understands the importance of minimising the time they spend wearing their backpack.
- Does your child respect their backpack? Protect your investment by reducing wear and tear on the bag through inappropriate use or reckless handling.
- What does you child say about wearing their backpack? If the child complains of discomfit, check the other steps for problems. If this does not address the issue, reduce the weight immediately.
Posture While Wearing the Backpack
- Does the backpack look comfortable on your child? Ensure your child can maintain a good posture when wearing the backpack.
- Is your child unable to stand normally when wearing the backpack? Distortions to your child’s posture can be an indicator it is inappropriately fitted or too heavy.
- Does the child have any excessive curve in their lower back? Poorly fitted backpacks commonly cause disruption to your child’s spinal curves. If this is the case then please go to the start of this blog and review.
- Does your child slouch at the shoulders? Is the child’s shoulder in a relaxed neutral posture without leaning? This is another indicator the backpack is poorly fitted and should prompt review.
- Can the child wear the backpack and keep their head and neck in neutral position without excessive forward or backward tilting?
- Is the backpack being worn on both shoulders? Hanging a backpack off one shoulder produces poor posture and is linked to numerous future health issues.
- Have you considered the following points when fitting a backpack to your child?
- Adjust the straps to fit your child securely
- The bottom of the backpack should sit clear off the buttocks
- The top of the backpack should not be above the child’s head
- Do you have concerns over the backpacks availability? Or perhaps the school does not have lockers allowing the removal of unneeded books from backpacks? School administrators are busy people so perhaps consider becoming involved in your schools parents group to facilitate change or address issues or concerns you have regarding your child.
We recommend you print out our Child’s Backpack Fitting Guide Checklist, so you can carefully review your child’s backpack comfort, fit and posture.Download
Also available is our Adult’s Backpack fitting guide.Download
You will find both of these available on our Mobile App as well.Download App