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Follow These 6 Tips to Prevent Your Student’s Backpack From Causing Injury


With the start of another school year right around the corner, it is time for kids to start lugging around their school books and supplies. Some kids would look at this picture below and think, “what a cute hat” and “that backpack is super cool” but from this physical therapist’s perspective, it looks like this student may be complaining about more than just her homework!


At Omaha Physical Therapy Institute (OPTI), we see a number of kids each year with complaints of back pain (upper and lower).  Often times, we find out that the backpacks that they are toting around school all day are extremely heavy.   In a survey conducted by Consumer Reports in 2009, the average weight of a 6th graders backpack was 18.4 pounds with some backpacks of those surveyed weighing as much as 30 pounds!   It is obvious that this can place undue stress on the lower back, neck and shoulders, potentially leading to discomfort and fatigue in these areas as well as numbness and tingling in the arms.

Below is a list of simple tips provided by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons that can help your children improve how to wear and carry their backpack properly, hopefully decreasing the risk of potential pain/injury.

Tip 1: Find the right size!

  • Find a backpack that is the appropriate size (never longer or wider than your torso and never hanging more than 4 inches below your waist).

Tip 2: Keep it comfortable!

  • Two wide, padded shoulder straps are recommended. Always use both shoulder straps while carrying a backpack.

Tip 3: Make sure it’s adjustable!

  • Shoulder straps that can tighten are ideal so the backpack remains close to the body.

Tip 4: Pockets are good!

  • Having multiple compartments can help distribute the weight in the backpack.

Tip 5: Waist straps are not just for mountain climbing!

  • Look for compression straps and a hip belt which can help stabilize contents and keep the backpack from sagging too low.

Tip 6: Do not overload!

  • It is recommended that the weight of the backpack not exceed 15% of a child’s body weight


If your child begins to have complaints of lower back, neck, or shoulder pain make sure to check the fit and the weight of his/her backpack!  Make adjustments consistent with the tips above. If pain persists, it is recommended that you seek the consultation of a health care provider.  Feel free to contact OPTI with any questions!

Brent Cordery, PT

OPTI is an outpatient Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy Clinic with locations at 144th & Dodge and 144th & Giles.