Every year families, students, schools and faculties prepare for the coming year. This year, more than 2.3 million students will attend Illinois schools. With the addition of laptops and electronic tablets to regular school supplies, most of the students are carrying more to school these days than ever before. Without enough time between classes to continually run back to their lockers, many of these students carry a backpack throughout the school day.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, backpack-related injuries among school children have increased nearly 300% over the last decade. The Illinois Chiropractic Foundation, along with Chiropractic Physicians in Illinois, want to educate students, parents, and faculty about proper backpack usage to help prevent backpack-related pain and injuries.

According to a cross-sectional study of 1126 children aged 12-18 years, the use of backpacks during the school day and backpack weight are independently associated with pain.

How to Choose a Proper Backpack for Your Child

Is the backpack the correct size for your child?
The backpack should never be wider or longer than your child’s torso, and the pack should not hang more than four inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking.

Does the backpack have two wide, padded shoulder straps?
Non-padded straps are not only uncomfortable, but they can place unnecessary pressure on the neck and shoulder muscles.

Does your child use both straps?
Lugging a heavy backpack by one strap can cause a disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, low back pain, and poor posture.

Are the shoulder straps adjustable?
The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child’s body. The backpack should be evenly centered in the middle of your child’s back.

Does the backpack have a padded back?
A padded back not only provides increased comfort, but also protects your child from being poked by sharp edges on school supplies (pencils, rulers, notebooks, etc.) inside the pack.

Does the backpack have several compartments?
A backpack with individualized compares helps position the contents most effectively. Make sure that pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on your child’s back, and try to place the heaviest items closest to the body.

Source: The American Chiropractic Association

Additional Resources:

Back-to-School Backpack Basics

What Heavy Backpacks Are Doing to Kids’ Bodies