Kids need a backpack to transport books and supplies throughout the school year. But it is important for them to learn how to properly wear and use backpacks in order to avoid health consequences such as back pain or injuries.

Dr. Steven Tuck, pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, says that elementary school students should carry no more than 20-25 percent of their body weight in their backpack.  Middle school or high school students can carry 30-40 percent of their body weight.

Choosing a Backpack

School Backpack

Dr. Tucks notes that it is important to wear backpacks on both shoulders to distribute the weight and support it with the body’s strongest muscles.

In addition, he recommends the following features when it’s time to choose a backpack:

  • A backpack that is lightweight when empty.
  • Wide, padded shoulder straps, which are less likely to dig into shoulders and cause pain.
  • Two shoulder straps and a waist strap which help distribute weight evenly.
  • Bags with a padded back to help protect against sharp edges on objects inside the bag.

Rolling backpacks are also a good option. However, your child may still need to carry this up stairs if the school has more than one level. In addition, parents should confirm with their child’s school that rolling backpacks are allowed.

As well as choosing the right backpack, Dr. Tuck says it is important to teach children how to properly bend when wearing a backpack. This includes bending with both knees, not at the waist.

If your child experiences persistent back pain, speak with your pediatrician.

Back pain and joint problems can occur for many reasons for people of all ages. If you or a loved one is experiencing back, hip, knee or another type of joint pain, the Joint Replacement Center at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital can help you.

Don’t have a family doctor? Adventist Medical Group, an affiliate of Adventist HealthCare, has family practice physicians available in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. To find a physician close to your home, call 1-855-4AMG-DOC.