27 Jan 2016 4:08 PM – Dr. Gabie Falconer (Chiropractor)

It’s the time of year again, when children have to take off their play time clothes and put on their backpacks.

It’s a timely reminder to parents, about the long term risks associated with carrying heavy and incorrectly packed school backpacks and the impact it may be having on their child’s wellbeing.


In an observational study conducted by the Chiropractors Association of Australia of more than 340 school children on commute routes in late 2011, revealed that 90% of these children had poor posture when carrying their school bags which may result in spinal damage in the future.
Having a backpack allows children to carry multiple schoolbooks and items in a practical way, through distributing the load across the back and shoulder muscles, however overloading these muscles can cause strain on the back, neck and shoulders.
By carrying these heavy backpacks, children’s backs will compensate for the load applied to it for an extended period of time. Such compensations that the spine may undergo include distorting the natural curves in the middle and lower backs, causing strains to the muscles and irritation to the joints of the spine and rib cage, create a rounding of the shoulders and causing a person to naturally lean forward therefore reducing balance.
A study published in the Australian Spine Journal found that the average weight of a school back pack is often heavier proportionally to the legal load bearing limit for adults (1).
School is already a challenging time for most students, so it is important to ensure your child is as comfortable as possible to enable them to develop physically and mentally to their potential.

The Chiropractic Association of Australia has offer these safe backpack tips for all school children:

  • Children should avoid carrying over 10% of their bodyweight in their backpack.
  • Make sure the objects in the backpack fit snuggly to minimise shifting weight in the bag
  • Heaviest objects should be placed at the back of the bag
  • The shoulder straps should be adjusted so that they fit snuggly over the childs shoulders and the bag doesn’t pull the child backward.
  • Avoid carrying the bag over one shoulder and it can cause an unbalance and spinal pain & discomfort
  • Carry only the essential items in their backpack and other items by hand
  • When purchasing a backpack, look for bags with multiple compartments for even weight distribution, padded straps to protect the shoulders and a wait belt
  • Avoid wearing the backpack any lower than the hollow of the lower back
  1. Negrini, S., & Carabalona, R (2002). Backpacks on! Schoolchildren’s Perceptions of Load, Associations with Back Pain and Factors Determing the Load. Spine, 27(2), 187-195