Children getting on the bus.

Pack It Light, Wear It Right

Today is National School Backpack Awareness Day. Over 23,000 people a year go to the emergency room because of injuries related to backpacks and book bags! It is reported that 55 percent of students carry a backpack heavier than the recommended guideline of 10 percent of the child’s body weight. Watch our video for a brief demonstration.

Occupational therapist(s) around the country are working together to raise awareness of the health implications of carrying too much weight in your backpack, purse, and briefcase. Experts state that a child wearing a backpack incorrectly or that is too heavy can be contributing risk factors for discomfort, fatigue, muscle soreness, and musculoskeletal pain, especially in the lower back. Watch our video from this morning for a 60-second demonstration!

1,2,3’s for proper backpack wearing to keep your kid(s) safe:

  1. Pack It
  • Utilize different compartments and pockets to distribute weight
  • Heavier items closer to the back center of the backpack
  • Lighter items in the front of the backpack
  • Sharp items away from the back

2. Put It On

Teach your child to pick up the backpack by bending and lifting in the knees instead of the waist to prevent back injury

3. Adjust & Carry

  • Always use both shoulder straps to prevent injury
  • Adjust the sternum strap
  • Secure the hip belt
  • The backpack should rest snugly against the back

Watch for warning signs that the backpack is too heavy, including:

  • Difficulty when putting on or taking off the backpack
  • Pain when wearing the backpack
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms or legs
  • Red strap marks over the anterior part of the shoulders
  • Any change in side-to-side posture while wearing the backpack

Adjust the shoulder and waist straps so that the pack fits comfortably. To ensure a proper fit, make sure the backpack does not extend past your child’s shoulders, or below the top of the hip bones.

For more information on how occupational therapy practitioners can help you or your family and a handout on the information provided here, visit the National School Backpack Awareness Day Web site at