School Backpack Safety

Q: School backpacks are popular and convenient, but are they safe?

A: Backpack safety is becoming a growing national concern among parents and students. This is not surprising considering many children are hauling backpacks that are nearly half of their own body weight. When worn improperly, this adds great strain to a child’s spine.

Complaints of backaches among backpack toting elementary, middle and high schoolers are on the rise. Many students are receiving chiropractic care for back and neck problems caused by carrying backpacks.

Although children and young adults may not have back or neck discomfort, they often have difficulty standing or sitting straight. Poor posture is frequently the result of carrying heavy and unbalanced loads. Unfortunately, poor posture can be longstanding if the spine is not corrected with specific chiropractic adjustments. Efforts should also be made to lessen the burden on kid’s backs.

Consumer Reports recently asked a consultant to evaluate some popular backpacks. They also asked 99 middle school and high school volunteers to test each bag and rate them for fit and comfort. These are the results:

·        The JanSport Freefall received an excellent rating by the experts and the students. Its features include thickly cushioned S-shaped straps to absorb shock and fit body contours. It also has a waist belt for extra support. The bag comes in three sizes for a better fit.

·        The REI Bookpacker was rated very good. It also comes in various sizes and includes padding, S-shaped straps and a hip belt.

·        The JanSport Loadlifter was judged good.

·        The Airpacks AirWave rated only fair despite the inflatable lumbar pillow.

·        L.L. Bean’s Original Book Pack received an average rating.


     Before lugging a backpack, remember to:

1.      Pack only the essentials. Don’t be weighed down by extra clutter.

2.      Distribute the contents evenly and place the heaviest contents closest to the spine.

3.      Use both straps to avoid muscle strain and poor posture. Fasten the hip or waist belt to relieve some pressure on the spine.

4.      Avoid leaning forward by fitting the pack close to the back. It shouldn’t slide down to the hips or rest too high, straining the neck and shoulders. The pack should rest against the curve in the lower back.


     Chiropractors and orthopedists recommend backpacks weigh no more than 10% of a child’s body weight.