Back-pack pain, a thing of the past?

Published: 28 Jan 2018

Back-pack pain, a thing of the past?

The kids have been back a school for a few weeks now, and despite our best efforts those bags just seem to get heavier and heavier.  We all want the best for our kids, so what is the best when it comes to school bags?

Currently a large focus is being placed on finding the right backpack for our kids and ensuring that they weigh less than 10% of the child’s weight.

However, new evidence from The University of Sydney suggests that;

“there is no convincing evidence that aspects of schoolbag use increase the risk of back pain”. (Yamato et al., 2018) That includes, weight, bag design and the difficulty of carrying a bag.

The same comprehensive study did find a link between perceived weight of the backpack and back pain. This means our children are more likely to experience back pain if they feel that their bag is too heavy.

How can we increase the comfort factor and reduce the perceived weight of the backpack?

Pack heavier items at the bottom of the bag

It is important to pack your bag well. By putting heavier items at the bottom of the bag, it distributes the pressure evenly through the stronger parts of your lower back. This will reduce the amount of strain on the shoulders and upper back.

Choose a bag that is…. Comfortable!

Try a few different types of backpacks, often a bag that is contoured to the shape of your child’s spine will be more comfortable. Find a bag that supports their back rather than one that needs their back to support the bag!

Children should not experience persistent back pain.  If they do, they should see a physiotherapist.

Wear the backpack over both shoulders and around the waist

Although it may not be “cool”, our bodies will thank us for keeping things balanced.

By wearing the backpack over both shoulders, it helps keep the spinal muscle activation even and allows both sides of the spine to work equally to prevent tightness in the lower back. Wearing the bag around the backside increases the pressure on the lower back. Ideally, the bottom of the bag should sit around the waist line and level with the hips.  Some bags come with a waist strap – this is ideal.

Your child should not experience persistent back pain.  If they do, you should consider seeing a physiotherapist.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call!

Need more help with this or another issue?  Contact us, or come visit.

Kaelin Moodley Physio




Reference: Yamato, T., Maher, C., Traeger, A., Williams, C. and Kamper, S. (2018). Do schoolbags cause back pain in children and adolescents? A systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 52(19), pp.1241-1245.