Pack it Light Wear it Right! – How to Ensure Backpacks are Safe for You and Your Child’s Back


Its getting closer! Although these hot summer days may deceive you, back to school time is right around the corner! Whether you are heading back to University or getting your kids ready for their first day of kindergarten, Vancouver’s students will all likely be using some kind of bag or backpack to help carry the load this year.

Its an exciting time, but in all the excitement its also important that we remember that those back packs can be the cause of serious back pain for all ages of students. Your Dr.’s at Broadway at Burrard Chiropractic, along with our friends at the Canadian Chiropractic Association, care about your studies and your health, and want to ensure you have a pain free school year!

To help do so, here is a short guide from the Canadian Chiropractic Association to help make sure you, or your child, are carrying your backpacks correctly and safely.

Packing It Right:

If your child was assigned ‘a ton’ of homework – it’s important that they’re only carrying between 10 to 15 per cent of their body weight1. Spreading out the load evenly in the backpack will also help reduce the strain on your child’s back, neck and shoulders. Talk to your child about proper packing:

  • Heavier objects closer to the body, with light or odd-shaped objects furthest from the back.
  • Only pack what is needed for the day / evening; leaving the rest at home.

Wearing It Correctly:

Kids ( and adults) want to look cool and fit in with the crowd. Throwing a backpack over one shoulder casually may look good, but it can have long term effects on the back such as changes in posture and walking habits. Show your child how to wear their bag properly, and instruct them about the possible risks of wearing it improperly and the effects it can have on the back:

  • Make sure your child is wearing both shoulder straps
  • Wearing a pack on one shoulder can cause leaning to one side, which could curve the spine over time
  • Adjust the straps so they fit close to the back – if it’s too loose it’s more difficult to achieve balance 2.


How to Shop For a Backpack:

When you go out to shop for a new backpack, bring your child so you can ensure it fits.  The American Chiropractic Association 3 recommends the bag should never hang more than four inches below the waistline. Bigger is not necessarily better. Look for packs that fit your child well so they can’t carry more than necessary, and note added compartments that can help them pack awkwardly shaped objects more efficiently. The straps should be padded to provide less painful support on the shoulders, and should be adjustable. Hip and chest belts can transfer some of the backpack weight from the back and shoulders to the hips and torso.

Let your child try on different backpacks in the store to ensure it fits them correctly, thus preventing strain on their back or shoulders 4.

Go Beyond the Backpack This School Year

If you’re looking for more ways to help your child keep a healthy back during the school year, you can use the Straighten Up Canada app brought to you by the Canadian Chiropractic Association, which features adult and youth exercise options.


And as always you can also visit your Vancouver Chiropractors, Dr. Tyler Hunsberger and Dr. Jerry Wright for a visit, or for more tips on how to keep your school year pain free! Here at our office we also maintain an agreement with the Universities and Colleges in the Vancouver area allowing us to offer student rates for treatments. Ask about if you qualify at your next visit!


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1. Vancouver Island Health Authority, “Health & Safety tip #77: Backpack Ergonomics for Kids,”
2.  Illinois State Board of Education, Carrying Backpacks: Physical Effects, 2006.
3. American Chiropractic Association, Backpack Misuse Leads to Chronic Back Pain, Doctors of Chiropractic Say,
4. Korovessis P1, Koureas G, Zacharatos S, Papazisis Z. Backpacks, back pain, sagittal spinal curves and trunk alignment in adolescents: a logistic and multinomial logistic analysis. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2005 Jan 15;30(2):247-55.

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