18514 N. Dale Mabry Highway - Lutz, FL 33548 - Telephone: 813-968-9411 - Fax: 813-963-2407


Dr. Mike Radice

Kids and Backpacks – “A Perfect Fit?”

School is back in session and kids are getting back into the routine of school and after-school activities.  This time of year naturally brings an increased use of backpacks.  Recent studies have shown that 64% of children suffer from back pain.  In many cases, the cause can be related to overloaded or ill fitting backpacks or other types of school bags (i.e. messenger bags and even duffel bags).  Most experts agree that the total weight of a child’s backpack should not exceed 20% of that child’s bodyweight.  Thankfully, backpacks have undergone a radical evolution in recent years and now many are designed to be ergonomic while remaining fashionable. Not to mention, the backpack of today has adapted to keep up with our changing lives. Children not only pack heavy schoolbooks, band instruments and running shoes into their backpacks, many of them also tuck away popular electronics — such as laptops, cellphones, and MP3 players — into specially designed compartments inside their backpacks. Ensuring that kids know how to load, wear and use their backpack properly is important and so is making sure the backpack distributes the load efficiently.  Here are some key tips in helping ensure a proper fit to reduce kids’ risks when considering backpacks:

Two Straps:  Make sure the bag has two straps. Single strapped bags, like satchels and duffel bags, should be avoided. A single strap places the entire load on one side of the body. Two straps balance the load on both shoulders. A single strap bag is sufficient for carrying light loads, like a change of clothes, but should not be used to carry any real weight.  Also, ensure kids are using both straps!

The second most important thing is to have the right size bag. The bag should be no larger than the child’s back. It should rest 1-2 inches below the shoulders and no more than 4 inches below the waistline (Remember: the waistline is level with the bellybutton).

Wide, Padded Straps:  The bag should have wide shoulder straps. Wide straps distribute the load over more area of the shoulder. You should consider a bag with a minimum of two inches and padded to ensure optimal effectiveness. The padding spreads the load as well as alleviates any pressure points.  Adjustable straps help keep the backpack from swaying and this further prevents back stress.

Padded Back:  The back should be padded as well. This will also help alleviate any pressure points. Also it will protect the child’s back from being poked and prodded by what is loaded in the bag.

Lightweight:  The bag should be light as possible. The stress on the back is caused by the weight of the bag as well as its contents, so anything you can do to reduce that weight will reduce the stress.

Waist Strap:  A waist strap is a very important feature.  It dramatically helps direct the load away from the shoulders and onto the much stronger waist and hip muscle groups. It also serves to physically lower where the weight is distributed with respect to the wearer’s spine.  By lowering part of the load to this point you also place less stress on the spine. Less stress on the back means less chance of back pain.

Compartments:  A backpack with individualized compartments helps position the contents most effectively. Make sure that pointy or bulky objects are packed away from the area that will rest on your child’s back, and try to place the heaviest items closet to the body.

Overloaded backpacks offer a significant source of potential problems for kids.  Try this experiment – actually weigh your kids’ backpacks as they get ready for school and see for yourself if there’s something you can do to help.  The 20% percent rule may not sound like a lot, but the equivalent is a 180 pound man carrying a 45 pound load on his back!  Of course, you can review what’s in the backpack to lighten the load, but please don’t neglect the proper fit and use of an effective bag to help kids stay out of pain.

18514 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Lutz, FL 33548
Tel: 813.968.9411  |  Fax: 813.963.2407

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