Kids and backpacks just seem to go together. Whether sending them off to summer camp, to a sporting event or for a sleepover with a friend, chances are they will be taking a backpack. Since carrying a heavy load unevenly or improperly can result in poor posture, muscle strain, headaches, neck and arm pain, and even distort the spinal column, it is crucial that that backpack fit properly and not weigh too much.

More than 50 per cent of young people experience at least one episode of low back pain by their teenage years. Alberta’s chiropractors offer the following tips to ensure your child’s pack doesn’t become a pain in the back:

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.
  • Explore other options such as bags with wheels and a pull handle for easy rolling.

Pack it light

  • The total weight of the pack should not exceed 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 using 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.
  • The pack should sit two inches above the waist.
  • Never allow your child to carry their backpack slung over one shoulder.
  • Using the waist strap reduces the strain on the back and transfers some of the load to the hips.

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 video