January means it’s time to get ready for the new school year!

If you have teens, you know how crazy this time of year can be. It’s not only taxing on the wallet, but it can be stressful to get everything your child needs to be prepared in time. An item that’s often overlooked is the backpack. It’s important to nail this staple (get it?) as wearing your backpack incorrectly can both cause pain and lead to back issues as your child grows.

Choosing a backpack is more important than just deciding which colour. Although your teens may want to choose a backpack trendy or fashionable, you must take into consideration a few factors. Your teen will be wearing backpacks for over 12 years of schooling. According to the Australian Chiropractors’ Association, around 80% of children report their backpacks are too heavy. So, what can we do about this?

What to look out for…

  1. Make sure the backpack is no wider than your child’s chest.
    This is an area where bigger is not necessarily better! It’s best to look for a bag fitted to the child, rather than buying one your kid will grow into – as they might ‘grow into’ back pain too! Bulky bags can cause too much weight bearing, which can negatively affect posture as the child learns to lean forward in an attempt to remain balanced.
  2. Make sure the backpack has broad, padded shoulder straps.
    Straps that are padded will be more comfortable for their shoulders and cause less tension, as the shock from walking becomes absorbed. Broad straps will ensure the weight of the backpack is not carried too close to the neck and helps distribute the weight evenly across the shoulders.

Remember: Comfort over style!

How to wear it

  • Pack the essentials. Backpacks should ideally be no heavier than 10% of your child’s weight. Although this is not necessarily to do with the backpack itself; this can be an important consideration when purchasing stationery and books. For example, purchasing a smaller pencil case with the absolute necessities (for bringing home), including lead pencils, a rubber and a ruler can be a lighter option than bringing home the child’s entire pencil case daily. Multi-subject books are also weight saving ideas and encouraging your teen to utilise a locker at school if available is always a great move.
  • Use the straps to keep the weight centralised. When wearing a backpack, ensure your child uses both shoulder straps. This will keep the weight of the backpack evenly distributed and won’t allow one side of the body to droop down under pressure. It’s important to ensure your child wears the waist straps (if the backpack has this feature). Waist straps can keep the weight closer to the body, which will cause less strain on the back muscles. Adjust the straps to ensure the backpack sits no lower than the hollow of the lower back. Using these straps also allows the hips to carry some weight, which will give the shoulders and back some relief!
  • Place heavy items at the base of the backpack. This will keep the weight close to the spine, where it can be carried more efficiently. Remember to make sure your teen is only packing what they need, as the risk of pain and injury becomes greater with consistently carrying heavier weight.

Backpacks should be considered an important investment for your teenager. You want to ensure that the backpack you buy will fit the needs of your teenager during their school years.

Unfortunately, it’s not a ‘one size that fits all’ scenario and requires a little shopping around to find the right one. If your teenager is consistently complaining of back pain due to heavy backpacks, book an appointment with one of our Cranbourne chiropractors and have a chat with us today by booking an appointment on 59984554. We’ll assess your teenager’s posture, backpack and how they carry it.


Australian Chiropractors’ Association (2019). Backpack tips. Retrieved from https://chiropractors.asn.au/component/k2/item/138-back-pack-tips

Chiropractors Association of Australia (2011). Backpack use among Australian school children. Retrieved from https://chiropractors.asn.au/images/stories/Files/Chiropractic%20Fact%20Sheets/CAA%20BackPack%20Research%20Summary%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

About the author:

Dr. Andrew Arnold is a Chiropractor at Cranbourne Family Chiropractic and Wellness Centre

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