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Back to School Backpack Tips for Good Back Health

Tim Boyer's picture
Backpack Tips

It’s an astonishing fact—last year, over 28,000 people were treated for backpack-related injuries in the U.S. Here are some back to school backpack tips that can help keep your student’s back and body healthy.


According to Ms. Karen Jacobs--a Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences professor--young students sometimes start off with lower back pain from their secondary school years that they then carry with them into college. The problem with this is that if left untreated for too long, that back pain can progress into a debilitating medical condition that can seriously affect how a student does in college.

The following are some back to school backpack tips that Professor Jacobs recommends on how to choose the proper backpack, how to pack it, and how to wear it correctly to prevent back health problems.

Backpack Injuries and Their Causes

According to a recent BU Today Health and Wellness article, research suggests that multiple factors involved in wearing a backpack incorrectly can lead to problems such as discomfort, fatigue, muscle soreness, musculoskeletal pain including lower back pain, respiratory problems, and other issues. In fact, tissue and bone ulcerations can occur on the tops of the shoulders where the greatest amount of pressure is typically applied by the straps of a backpack.

Here are some helpful tips on 60-Second Back Pain Fixes that can ease your pain when you cannot get to a doctor right away.

The causes of backpack-related health problems are typically due to:

• Wearing a backpack that is too heavy

• Wearing a backpack for long periods of time or over long distances

• Inadequate distribution of weight in the backpack

• Poor placement of items in the backpack

The good news is that backpack-related problems are easily remedied and avoided in the future by following some helpful backpack tips offered by the American Occupational Therapy Association:

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Recommended Backpack Tips

• Always select a backpack that is the right size for you.

• Distribute weight evenly. Load heaviest items closest to your back and balance materials so that you can easily stand up straight.

• If a backpack has a hip belt, wear it to improve balance and take some strain off sensitive neck and shoulder muscles.

• Check that your packed backpack weighs no more than 10 percent of your body weight. If it weighs more, determine what you can leave at home that day to lessen the load.

• If the backpack is still too heavy, consider a book bag on wheels.

Choosing a Backpack that’s the Right Fit for You

• Bigger is not better when it comes to backpacks; you have to make sure its design matches your frame. For example, the height of the backpack should extend from approximately two inches below your shoulder blades to waist level, or slightly above the waist.

• Padding to protect the pressure areas is especially important, but is not found in all bag brands. A proper backpack will have padded shoulder straps, a padded back, chest and hip straps.

• You should also choose a backpack that suits your needs on a practical level. For example, if you expect to carry a laptop in it, make sure the laptop compartment is one that is closest against your back. If you want to stay hydrated a healthy way, choose one that offers water bottle compartments on the sides. And, if you bike to and from classes, having a reflector or adding reflective tape on the back and sides could save your life.

For more about back health and younger backpack-toting students, here is an informative article on teen backpack pain and what you should do about it.

Reference: BU Today― “Backpack Safety 101