Kids and backpacks just seem to go together. Whether sending them off to school, to a sporting event or for a sleepover with a friend, chances are they are bringing a backpack. But carrying a heavy load unevenly or improperly can result in poor posture and even distort the spinal column, causing muscle strain, headaches, neck and arm pain, and even nerve damage.

More than 50 per cent of young people experience at least one episode of low back pain by their teenage years.  So how can you help protect your child’s back from backpack strain?

Pick it right 

  • Choose a bag made of lightweight material, such as vinyl or canvas.
  • Pick a bag that has two wide, adjustable and padded shoulder straps, along with a hip or waist strap, a padded back and plenty of pockets.
  • Ensure the bag is proportionate to body size and no larger than needed. The top of the pack should not extend higher than the top of the shoulder, and the bottom should not fall below the top of the hipbone.
  • Consider the age and size of the child. Backpacks are not one size fits all; smaller children will need much smaller packs.
  • Explore other options like bags with wheels and a pull handle for easy rolling.

Pack it light 

  • The total weight of the pack should not exceed 10 to 15 per cent of the wearer’s body weight.
  • Make sure the backpack contains only what is needed for the day or activity.
  • Spread the weight throughout the pack. Utilize the pockets.
  • Pack the heaviest items close to the body.

 Wear it right 

  • Both shoulder straps should always be used and adjusted so the pack fits snugly against the body.
  • You should be able to slide a hand between the backpack and the wearer’s back.
  • The pack should sit two inches above the waist.
  • Never allow your child to sling backpacks over only one shoulder.
  • Use the waist strap. It reduces the strain on the back and transfers some of the load to the hips.
  • Some backpacks also have a strap that goes across the chest. This further reduces the load.

 To ensure your child’s back is healthy and strong, consult your chiropractor. They can teach you and your child how to pack, lift and carry a backpack properly to prevent injury. More information, including where to find a chiropractor near you, can be found at

View our Pack it light, wear it right information kit