Did you know that 79 percent of American students carry school backpacks, and 55 percent of those backpacks are too heavy? Those heavy backpacks can cause low back pain that can last through adulthood!

Help your child take the load off their back by following these tips for backpack safety.

Pack it right

Organizing the items that go in the backpack can help reduce the load your child feels and keep them safe in case of accidents.

  • Put the heavier items, like books and notebooks, toward the rear and center of the backpack, closer to your child’s back.
  • Place lighter items, like pencils and glue sticks, in front.
  • Keep sharp items like scissors away from the body and towards the front of the backpack.
  • Use various pockets and compartments to help distribute weight.
  • Pack only those items necessary for the day’s activities.

Make it light

Your child will need certain things at school every day, but here are some things to consider to help decide what and how they carry their items.

  • Weigh the backpack! Your child’s book bag shouldn’t exceed 10 percent of his or her body weight. This means that if your child is 100 pounds, the backpack should weigh less than 10 pounds.
  • If the backpack is consistently heavy, consider a backpack with wheels or have your child carry items in his or her arms.
  • Know how to spot the signs of a heavy backpack. This can include difficulty picking up the backpack, pain, numbness or tingling in the arms or legs, or red marks on the shoulders. Your child’s posture might also change when wearing the backpack.

Wear it tight

Keeping a backpack closer to the body makes it feel lighter and easier to carry.

  • Wear both shoulder straps to prevent injury.
  • Shoulder straps should be padded and tightened so that the backpack sits snugly against your child’s back.
  • Consider backpacks with a hip belt or chest belt. This will take some strain off of your child’s shoulders and back.
  • Choose the right size. The height of the backpack should begin two inches below the shoulder blades and end slightly above the waist.

Your child doesn’t have to carry the world in a backpack every day. Remember to pack it right, make it light, and wear it tight to help prevent back pain and injury from backpacks!


Kayla Pirri, MS, OTR/L, CLC

Kayla Pirri is an occupational therapist in Lifespan's Rehabilitation Services.