Chiropractic Association of South Africa (CASA)

Unpacking Backpacks

Infants & Children, Pain & Inflammation

Unpacking Backpacks

If your child has been complaining about neck ache or back pain this year, then their backpack might be to blame. However, this might have more to do with what (and how) your child is carrying than the backpack itself.

What to look out for

From textbooks to files, to laptops, lunch and more, your child’s backpack is probably heavier than it should be, causing him or her to bend over to support the weight.

Carrying it with just one shoulder strap can be just as damaging, as the muscles on the other shoulder have to compensate for the uneven balance of weight.

Other signs include:

  • Trouble lifting the bag
  • Red marks on their shoulders
  • Headache at the base of the skull
  • Hands and fingers feeling numb
  • Leaning/being pulled to one side
Choosing the right backpack

What can you do to help?

There are a few things you can do to help ease your child’s back pain:

  • Check their bag regularly
  • Remove any non-essential items to lighten the load
  • Encourage them to lift the bag from a higher surface (like a table)
  • If they do have to pick their bag up off the floor, show your child how to lift with their legs, and not with their back.
  • Suggest they carry a lunch bag or extra heavy books in their arms
  • Encourage them to wear the back pack correctly with both straps on both shoulders and not hanging off to one side


Choosing the right backpack

Research suggests that backpacks should be no more than 10% of the wearer’s body weight. Your child should be able to walk normally without having to bend over to compensate for the weight.

Top tips:

Choose comfort – two, wide, padded straps will help distribute the weight over the shoulders. Make sure they don’t cut into the shoulders and armpit region or impair circulation.

Keep it light – select a lightweight bag that won’t add any more weight than necessary to your child’s back

Compartmentalize – choose a backpack with different compartments and place heavier items in the back and lighter items towards the front for a more even balance.

Strap it – a waist strap distributes the weight of the bag more evenly and helps to keep it close to the body and firmly secured

Pad it – A padded pack protects your child’s back from being poked by oddly shaped and sharp objects in the bag

Before your child heads back to school in the New Year, take the time you need to find the perfect backpack for them, alternatively, consider other kinds of bags, such as rolling bags, moulded backpacks and those with lumbar support.

If your child is still struggling with back, shoulder or neck pain, however, or you’d like some advice on backpack ergonomics, then talk to your CASA-registered chiropractor today.


This blog post is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Tags :
back pain, backpack, neck pain
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