Backpack one shoulder

Wrong- Strap on one side of body

Back back over two shoulders

Right- Wide padded straps on both shoulders

While a backpack is still one of the best ways to tote homework, an overloaded or improperly worn backpack gets a failing grade, according to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). Here are some tips to reduce a child’s risk of causing long term damage while wearing a backpack.

 Wear Both straps

Use of one strap causes one side of the body to bear the weight of the backpack. By wearing 2 shoulder straps, the weight of the backpack is better distributed.

Wear The Backpack Over The Strongest Mid-Back Muscles

Pay close attention to the way the backpack is positioned on the back. It should rest evenly in
the middle of the back. Shoulder straps should be adjusted to allow the child to put on and take
off the backpack without difficulty and allow free movement of the arms. Straps should not be
too loose, and the backpack should not extend below the low back.

Backpack that is too heavy

Wrong- Load too heavy

Backpack with right amount of weight

Right- Load no more than 10-15% of body weight

 Lighten The Load

Keep the load at 10%-15% or less of the child’s body weight. Carry only those items that are
required for the day. Organize the contents of the backpack by placing the heaviest items
closest to the back. Some students have 2 sets of books, so as not to have to carry the heavy
books to and from school.

How A Physical Therapist Can Help

A physical therapist can help you choose a proper backpack and fit it specifically to your child.
Children come in all shapes and sizes, and some have physical limitations that require special
adaptations. Additionally, a physical therapist can help improve posture problems, correct
muscle imbalances, and treat pain that can result from improper backpack use. Physical
therapists can also design individualized fitness programs to help children get strong and stay
strong—and carry their own loads!

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Owner & Physical Therapist at Freedom Physical Therapy Services
Michael Karegeannes, PT, MHSc, LAT, MTC, CFC, CCTT, CMTPT is the owner of Freedom Physical Therapy Services in WI and is one of the few physical therapists in the United States recognized as a Certified Cervical and Temporomandibular Therapist with the AAOP and PTBCTT.