As students head back to school, it’s important for parents to realize
the importance of backpack safety. Low quality backpacks and/or
improper backpack techniques can cause serious short-term and
potentially long-term back and spinal problems.
For this reason, the
American Chiropractic Association has generated a backpack safety
checklist for parents:
• 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 4 inches below the waistline. A backpack that
hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child
to lean forward when walking. Also, a bigger bag is not necessarily
better. The more room there is in a backpack, the more your child will
carry and the heavier the backpack will be.
• Does the backpack have two wide, padded shoulder straps
- Non-padded straps are uncomfortable and can dig into your childís
shoulders. Also, two shoulder straps are better than one. Lugging a
heavy backpack by one strap can cause a disproportionate shift of
weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as
• Are the shoulder straps adjustable - The shoulder straps should
be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child's body.
Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle
uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain.
• 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.
• Is there a waist belt - Many backpacks have a waist belt that
can be snugly buckled around the childís waist. These belts can
distribute the weight of a heavy load from the back and shoulders to
the hips and torso.
• Does the pack have several compartments - A backpack with
individualized compartments 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 closet to the body.
We encourage parents to contact our office should their child or
teen report any discomfort, especially one related to backpack use.
Early treatment and prevention is key.
Source: American Chiropractic Association. August 2005.