Iowa Specialty Hospital

Choosing the Right Backpack for Spine Health

August 12, 2022

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With school back in session, it’s important to keep your child’s spine safe and healthy. That’s why the backpack that your child will use at school is very important.  It’s the hardest-working item that you will buy for your child since it will be used every day to take items to and from school.  Not only does it need to be durable, it also needs to be safe in regards to your child’s health.  Many children end up going to their doctor with early onset back pain due to improper use of their backpack.  

The weight of a backpack and its contents can cause a person’s posture to deteriorate; heavy school backpacks may deform the natural curves of the back.  If those curves are interrupted in the lower and middle back, it may cause muscle strain, as well as irritation to the rib cage or spine.  Carrying overweight backpacks in our younger years can even cause us to have back problems later in life.

When looking for a backpack, consider the following:
Quality: Look for high-quality backpacks with good back support and an even weight distribution. Consider purchasing an ergonomic backpack.

Dimensions: The backpack should not be so big that it can be filled with all sorts of unnecessary items. It should rest evenly on their shoulders.  The top of the backpack should sit higher than their shoulders, and it should fit snugly against their body and above their lower back and hips.

Shoulder straps: These should be wide and padded thickly.  This will reduce pressure on their shoulders and prevent stiff muscles.  It should also have an adjustable hip strap to help with weight distribution.

  • NOTE: Always encourage your child to use BOTH shoulder straps. Carrying the backpack over only one shoulder can cause uneven distribution of the weight on your child’s body.  This may make them stand with poor posture, as well as result in back, neck, and shoulder problems.

Check the weight of their packed backpack: The weight of your child’s backpack should be no more than 15% of their total body weight. Heavier items should be packed first so that the weight is close to their body.


It’s also a good idea to practice a weekly backpack check with your child by emptying out any unnecessary weight as well as checking the straps, which may shift over time. Remember, the safe weight range of a backpack is 10-15% of your child’s body weight.

Your children will continue to grow safe and fit by adding backpack safety to your routine!

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