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Tips on How to Select and Wear a Backpack

Tips on How to Select and Wear a Backpack

by Tara Hackney, PT, DPT, OCS, KTTP1 Comment

It’s time to think about back to school! An item that is on many back to school shopping lists is a new backpack. But did you know that there should be many considerations besides the color or design on the backpack?

A properly fitting backpack can prevent shoulder, neck and back pain in adolescents and young kids. It can also help with posture. Here are some tips on how to pick the right backpack and how to wear your backpack correctly:

Tips for Picking a Backpack:

  1. A backpack should be light weight
  2. Thick padded straps help distribute the weight across the shoulders
  3. Waist or chest straps help to distribute weight to the torso instead of only on the shoulders and back
  4. Make sure you pick the correct size backpack, a child should not wear an adult-sized backpack

How to Wear Your Backpack Properly:

  • Always wear both shoulder straps rather than only one strap. This helps to evenly distribute the weight and makes it easier to walk upright instead of leaning to the side.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so the backpack is high on the back and the straps are comfortable on the shoulders.
  • A backpack should not drop below waist level, so don’t wear it slung low on the back.
  • Backpacks should not sway side to side as you walk. Use the waist strap or chest strap if the backpack has one to help distribute the load more evenly and reduce swaying of the pack.
  • A full backpack should be no more than 10 percent of the child’s body weight.2
  • Heavy items should be placed in the pockets that will rest closer to the body rather than in the front pockets away from the center of mass.

Why is a Properly Fitted Backpack Important?

In a study of students aged 10-18 years old, 33.5 percent of the students attributed pain to backpack use.1 The goal of ensuring a properly worn backpack and trying to limit the weight in backpacks is to reduce the pain students attribute to backpack use while also improving posture.

If your child has pain due to backpack use, contact your closest Athletico clinic for an appointment with one of our therapists.

Request an Appointment

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. Talbott NR, Bhattacharya A, Davis KG, Shukla R, Levin L. School Backpacks: It’s More Than Just a Weight Problem. Work. 2009;34(4):481-94. doi: 10.3233/WOR-2009-0949.
2. Drzaƚ-Grabiec J, Truszczyńska A, Rykaƚa J, Rachwaƚ M, Snela S, Podgórska J. Effect of asymmetrical backpack load on spinal curvature in school children. Work. 2015;51(2):383-388. doi:10.3233/wor-141981.

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About the Author:
Tara Hackney, a physical therapist in Marion, IA, enjoys working with all patient types, especially gymnasts, cheerleaders, and dancers. She is the prominent blogger for Athletico's Gymnastic/Cheer Program. With an orthopedic specialization and training in dry needling and Graston technique, Tara hopes to answer your questions about injuries and injury prevention in an easy-to-understand manner. She hopes to ease fears surrounding pain and injuries, address concerns about recovery, and provide tips to prevent injury. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her dog, reading, and watching her nephews play sports.

Read more health resources related to these topics:

Back PainInjury Preventionback to schoolbackpack safety

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