Is your child’s backpack making the grade?

It's been a few years since I completed my schooling, but after 22 years of it, I sure remember what it's like to carry all my books on my back every day! Since it is back to school season, I wanted to provide some advice on how to PROPERLY use a backpack, for your kids or for yourself.

Firstly, while there are many things that you or your child may need to carry around, it's best to lighten the load as much as possible. It is recommended that you don't carry more than 10-15% of your body weight in your pack. It may be a good idea to pack the heavier items towards the front of the pack to help keep the centre of gravity closer to the body.
CHOOSING A PACK: Make sure the backpack has multiple compartments to ease accessibility, and is a reasonable size that fits in between the user's shoulders and lower back. Finding a backpack with adjustable straps will help enable you to hold most of the load on the hips. A backpack with not only shoulder straps, but also hip and sternum straps, will allow to take most of the load off the shoulders and balance the weight distribution. 

1. Rest the bottom of the backpack on the top of the hip bones, then buckle the hip strap and tighten it.
2. Pull the shoulder straps down and back to tighten them so the load is right against the back. The shoulders should NOT be carrying the weight.
3. Buckle and tighten the sternum strap so it's comfortable across the chest and allows free movement of the arms.
After the straps are adjusted, make sure that you always carry the backpack over both shoulders and that the load is resting against the lower back. 

  • Carrying the bag with only one shoulder strap. It's impossible to walk with proper posture when there is several pounds pulling on one shoulder. This will lead to increased swaying with each step and more neck, shoulder, and upper back problems.

  • Carrying the backpack too low on the back. This will increase the load on the shoulders and force you to lean forward to counteract this, which in turn will lead to more problems and pain in the lower back.

Illustration by Beth MacDonald

Dr. Shawn K. Exley, A.S., B.Sc., D.C.

Dr. Shawn K. Exley is the owner of Yaletown Chiropractic in Vancouver, BC. He graduated with his Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree from the University of Western States in Portland, Oregon. He has always had a desire to help others and shortly after being introduced to chiropractic, he saw how beneficial it was in supporting his active lifestyle.

Have questions about Chiropractic? Contact Dr. Shawn by Email or phone 604.688.1500.

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