Backpack Ergonomics 101!

Graphic of women stretching with toddlers
Posted September 18, 2023
Caitlin Williams
BKin(Hon), MSc(PT), MScCl(Manip Ther), DPT, FCAMPT

The leaves are starting to change, the days are getting shorter and the nights cooler, and with that comes back to school! 

The most commonly used bag for school is a backpack.  And while it will carry the kids lunch bag, school books and library books.  It can also carry sports gear, electronic devices, etc.  As we can see, the weight in these bags can quickly add up!  It is important that we understand the impact of carrying a heavy backpack and how it may affect our posture. 

A heavy backpack can cause a child to lean forward, hunch their backs and may lead to discomfort in their backs.  Also, carrying a backpack on one shoulder may lead to muscular imbalances and can affect their posture and gait.   

When it comes to choosing a backpack that promotes good posture and overall health for your child, there are several key factors to consider:

  1. Proper Fit: Ensure that the backpack fits your child correctly. Look for adjustable straps and a padded back for comfort. The backpack should sit snugly against the child’s back, with the bottom resting in the curve of the lower back.
  1. Weight Distribution: Encourage your child to pack their backpack thoughtfully. Heavier items should be placed closer to the child’s back and centered in the backpack to distribute weight evenly. Using all available compartments can help with this.
  1. Backpack Size: Choose a backpack that is appropriate for your child’s size. It should not be too large or too small. The top of the backpack should not extend above the shoulders, and the bottom should rest comfortably on the lower back.

Encouraging Good Habits

In addition to selecting the right backpack, it’s essential to teach your child good habits for maintaining proper posture while carrying their backpack:

  1. **Use Both Straps:** Encourage your child to use both shoulder straps to evenly distribute the weight. Using one strap can cause uneven pressure on the back and surrounding muscles.
  1. **Adjust Straps Regularly:** Check the backpack’s straps regularly to ensure they are properly adjusted as your child grows. Straps that are too long or too short can affect their posture.
  1. **Lighten the Load:** Help your child prioritize what they carry in their backpack. Encourage them to only pack what they need for the day to reduce unnecessary weight.

Hopefully these tips will set your child up for a successful day and a wonderful school year ahead!