How Does Your Backpack Feel?

Does your child complain that their backpack is hurting them? Do they have achy arms and backs? The cause may be that your child is carrying too much weight in their backpack or not wearing it properly.

Approximately 55% of students carry backpacks that are too heavy for them.¹ In one study of American students between the ages of 11 to 15 years, it was reported that 64% of them have back pain related to overloaded backpacks.²

Here are some tips to help your child ease the load on their growing bodies.

Loading a Pack

  • You child’s backpack should be no more than approximately 10% of their body weight. I.e. a student weighing 100 pounds shouldn’t wear a backpack with more than 10 pounds in it.
  • Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back.
  • Arrange books and materials so that there is the least amount of shifting items while wearing their packs.
  • Check from time to time that they are only carrying around what is necessary for school, and not items that are only increasing the load with no school purpose.
  • If the weight in your child’s backpack or bag is too heavy they may opt to carry an item or two in their arms.
  • If the backpack is too heavy on a regular basis consider a bag on wheels if it follows the school guidelines.


Wearing a Backpack

  • Wear the pack with both straps on to evenly carrying the weight. Wearing a backpack on one shoulder can cause your child to lean to one side causing the spine to curve and increasing the chance for injury or discomfort.
  • Select a pack with well padded shoulder straps. Shoulders and necks have many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and tingling in the arms, neck, and hands when too much pressure is pulling on them.
  • Adjust the straps so that the backpack fits snugly to your child’s back. A pack that is too lose can pull your child backwards and strain the muscles.
  • The bottom of the pack should rest at the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than 4 inches below your child’s waistline.
  • Most importantly is to purchase a backpack that is appropriately sized to your child.

If your child has a locker, help them work regular stops into their schedule between classes. This will lighten the load that they carry around between classes.

Blog by: Laney London, COTA/L, IMC

If you have any further questions please contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit us at


1. Graduate Program in Physical Therapy, Simmons College. (2001, February 12). Children’s Backpacks Are Too Heavy, New Study Shows [Press Release]. 

2. UC Newsroom, University of California. (2004, August 26). Back to school; heavy packs endanger kids’ health, study shows [Press Release]

American Occupational Therapy Asssociation, Inc.,

Voice For Health September-October 2013 Vol. LX, No. 5