Proper Fit & a Few Tips for Backpack Wear

Read More About the Author Here: Chrissy Moreno, PT

August is here! Time to say goodbye to the dog days of summer and get back into the routine for ourselves and our little ones. As school is about to commence & we are shopping for supplies, let’s take some time to go over a few tips on how to properly fit a backpack & keep postural muscles strong to avoid those return to school aches.

How to Wear?

Make sure both shoulder straps are tightened securely (preferably with padded backing for comfort). Tightening straps with a snug fit will allow for proper and even weight distribution. If the backpack is riding too low, this will cause your child to develop posturing to compensate for the added load and increase strain on muscles. If the straps are too loose, this will also lead to shifting of the weight from side to side and increase the demand on the wearer.³ Although a quick and easy way to put on your backpack, do not let your child wear utilizing just one shoulder strap. Wear with one strap will encourage mal-alignment of your spine and asymmetry (tightening of muscles on one side of the body, while the other side is lengthened leading to weakness).

How Much Can You Carry?

Weight of the backpack should not exceed a load greater than 10-15% of your body weight.² Studies have demonstrated that this is especially important for younger children and females, where a heavier load has been shown to result in a compensatory forward head posture leading to increased tension.² This can also distort the natural curves in the middle and lower back, lead to rounded shoulders, and cause a person to lean forward increasing risk for falls.³

Proper load distribution is important. When you carry anything away from your body it takes more effort, and in turn, will place increased stress on your joints and muscles.⁴ Place heavier objects towards the bottom of the backpack and lighter objects can be placed in provided compartments. If a hip strap is available be sure to use it, this is an added bonus, as it will help to evenly distribute the weight to the pelvis where mechanical advantage is better.⁴

Also, try and remember to only have your child carry the essentials. If your child has too many books to carry make sure to reach out to his/her teacher and use the locker provided between classes.

Let’s say you follow all the tips and your child starts to complain of discomfort associated with backpack wear. Please see exercises at end of blog for a few recommendations to address forward head posture and postural weakness (likely contributing factors to backpack associated pain/discomfort).

Taking the time to properly fit a backpack will help to avoid undue stress on your developing child’s spine. Yet, it is important to note, that back pain associated with backpack wear is usually short term.³ If your child exhibits any type of back pain that persists please have him/her be further evaluated by a medical professional.


  1. Adams, Chris. (2011, December 11). Sizing Guide for Children’s Backpacks. Retrieved from
  2. Michael J. Moore DC, Gregory L White Ph.D., & Donna L. Moore. (2007, April 06). Association of Relative Backpack Weight With Reported Pain, pain sites, Medical Utilization, and Lost School Time in Children and Adolescents.
  3. Triano, John DC. (2012, August 10). Backpacks and back pain in children. Retrieved from spine
  4. Asher, Anne. CPT (20219, March 31). 10 Tips for Preventing Pain from Wearing your Backpack. Retrieved from