Backpacks are full of heavy textbooks, notebooks and computers. All this weight can lead to neck and back pain.

“Every once in a while, we’ll have kids coming in with neck and back pain and they’ll say ‘my neck or back hurts when I’m carrying those heavy backpacks,” said Scott Gorham, physical therapist at TRIA Neck and Back Strengthening Program, formerly known as the Physicians Neck and Back Center (PNBC) in Maple Grove.

To help prevent these issues, Scott offers four tips on how to avoid neck and back pain from backpacks:

  1. Find the right backpack – It’s important to know what to look for in a backpack that will help avoid neck and back pain. Look for wide shoulder straps, which will better distribute the weight across your child’s body. It will also reduce pressure placed on sensitive areas.
  2. Proper positioning – The backpack shoulder straps should fit without excess slack. The top of the backpack should rest just below the shoulders and the bottom should be above the belt line. Wear both straps and don’t sling the backpack over one shoulder.
  3. Lighten the load – A backpack’s weight should only be a certain percentage of your child’s body weight. Elementary school students shouldn’t carry more than 10 percent of their body weight. A middle school student’s backpacks shouldn’t be more than 12 percent of their body weight. High school students backpacks shouldn’t be more than 15 percent of their body weight. One way to reduce the weight is to limit how many textbooks your child is carrying. If he or she can request a second textbook, they can leave one at school and one at home, reducing the weight they’re lugging around every day. Remember, weight should not position your child out of their normal posture. If they are leaning backward or forward, their backpack is too heavy.
  4. Pack smarter – Load the backpack with heavier objects closer to your child’s body and lighter ones farther away. Use small, outer pockets for things like pens and calculators and put your books, folders, notebooks and computers in the main pocket. If your child is having neck or back pain visit TRIA Neck and Back Strengthening Program online for more information near you.