The Right Backpack: An Essential Tool for School

Did you know that a backpack that is badly adjusted, improperly used or too heavy can cause neck, back, and shoulder pain to the wearer? Elementary school students’ backpacks can weigh up to 10 lbs, while high school students carry loads of up to 20 lbs. A backpack should be of a bearable weight that should not exceed 10% of one’s body weight, or 5% when dealing with children 9 years old or younger.

The reasoning is simple. Children are growing and bags that are too heavy for them put stress on their bodies which, if ignored, can cause long-term damage. A bag that is too heavy can lead to bad posture, a misaligned spine, compression in the shoulders and arms, and even cause headaches!

Here are a few ways of preventing these problems:The bag should not be wider than the child’s back.

Shoulder straps should be at least 2 inches thick, padded and adjustable; they should be adjusted so as not to hurt the shoulders or block arm movement.
The backpack should have a padded back so as to reduce tension, and be as close to the back as possible.
It should have many pockets to allow the weight to be evenly distributed, rather than concentrated on the middle and sagging down to the buttocks.
The ideal bag should also have a hip strap so that the weight might rest on the hips as well as keep it close to the body; the strap also stabilizes the bag and keeps it close to the body.
Heavier objects should be closest to the back in the middle, so as not to cause imbalance.
The contents should be basic, so as not to exceed a bearable weight for the child when properly carried on both shoulders.

Chantal Galarneau, St-Bruno clinic