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Children’s school bags and back pain

Published: 27 February 2018 - Children’s Physio

Image of school children

School is back in full swing and our physios have noticed an increase in children presenting with back pain from heavy school bags.

School bags can cause permanent spinal damage - most injuries occur because students carry back packs that are twice as heavy as the recommended 10 per cent body weight rule1.

Our top five tips to minimise the occurrence of back pain and help your child avoid postural problems as they grow:

a. Your child's school bag should sit about waist height, and not too big that they cannot look up comfortably. Adjust the shoulder straps so it's not too tight that it digs into his/her under arms.

b. Pack the bag with the heavier, bulkier items towards the back of the school bag, closer to the body and the lighter items towards the front for a good load distribution.

c. Adjust the sternal strap tight enough so the bag is held against the body, with little room to swing around.

d. There should be a waist belt to keep the bag in place when on the move and to help distribute the weight between the hips and shoulders.

e. Choose a back pack instead of a shoulder bag. Choose a back pack that is the right size for your child - the top of the back pack should not be more than 3cm higher than their shoulders.

Further reading: How to buy and fit the best shoes for your children
Further reading: Guide to fitting your child's backpack


Deborah Low - Physiotherapist (Clinical Associate) - Back In Motion Richmond


[1] Harrison, Tom, “Heavy School Backpacks Are a Real Pain,” Health News, 6 December 2005