Doctor's Orders

‘Pack it Light, Wear it Right’ — backpack safety
Aug. 31, 2014 @ 12:00 PM

“Pack it Light, Wear it Right” is the American Occupational Therapy Association’s (AOTA) advice to the more than 40 million students returning to school. As part of National School Backpack Awareness Day, AOTA wants to educate parents, teachers and students about the proper weight and fit of school backpacks to avoid health problems.

Carrying too much weight or improperly wearing backpacks can cause neck, shoulder, and back pain, and can compromise posture and breathing. In one study, 6 out of 10 American students ages 9 to 20 reported chronic back pain related to heavy backpacks.

AOTA offers 10 tips to backpack safety:

1. Never let a child carry more than 15 percent of his or her body weight. This means a child who weighs 100 pounds should not wear a backpack heavier than 15 pounds.

2. Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back. Arrange books and materials to prevent them from sliding.3. Always wear both shoulder straps. Wearing only one strap can cause a child to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort.

4. Select a pack with well-padded shoulder straps. Too much pressure on shoulders and the neck can cause pain and tingling.

5. Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly to the child’s back. The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back, never more than four inches below the child’s waistline.

6. Wear the waist belt, if the backpack has one, to help distribute the pack’s weight more evenly.

7. Check what your child carries to school and brings home to make sure the items are necessary for the day’s activities.

8. If the backpack is too heavy, consider using a book bag on wheels if your child’s school allows it.

9. Choose the right size pack for your child’s back as well as one with enough room for necessary school items.

10. If a student is experiencing back pain or neck soreness, consult your doctor or occupational therapist.


1. National Backpack Awareness Day. The American Occupational Therapy Association.