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Back to school – tips for choosing the right school bag

The right school bag is important for your kid’s posture

Reduce the load

All too often I see children and young adults who have back pain or neck pain due to carrying a heavy school bag. Up to 30% of children report having neck pain or back pain, and it is believed that school bags maybe contributing to this.

What should a school bag weigh?

The general recommendation is that a school bag should be no more than 10% of a child’s body weight – if an average child weighs 75lbs (34kg) then the back should weigh no more than 7.5lbs when packed (roughly the bag plus 3 text books and a lunch box).

If a child regularly carries more than 10% of their body weight they have to compensate by leaning forward to manage the weight and then sticking their chin out (extending their neck) so that they can see where they are going. A heavy bag is also difficult to put on, which can lead to shoulder, back or neck strains, and once on the straps can dig in, cause rub marks on the shoulders and in the worst cases cause pins and needles in to the arms and hands through compression.

How to choose a good school bag

The charity BackCare recommend 2 different types of bags

  • A cross body bag with a wide strap that goes across the front of the body from the opposite shoulder to spread the load.
  • A rucksack with 2 wide straps and ideally a waist strap to hold the base of the bag close to the body.
  • A bag should have following features
    • Padded shoulder straps so that they won’t dig in.
    • A well padded back that curves to remove the pressure on the lumber spine and supports the low back.
    • Be the right size bag for your child. An adult bag won’t work for a primary school child.

How to wear the right school bag

  • Adjust the straps so that the bag so that the bottom of the bag rest on the top of the buttocks, and the top is in contact with the top of the spine (but below the neck).
  • If there is a waist strap tighten this to pull the bag into the spine.
  • If it is a back pack ALWAYS wear both straps
  • Pack the heaviest items at the bottom.
  • Pack any bulky items towards the front of the bag so that they wont dig in.
  • Only carry those items needed for school that day.
  • If at all possible off load any heavier items into a locker or desk until they are needed.
  • When you don’t need to carry the bag – DON’T
  • Try to ensure that you stand up straight and don’t lean forward.

www.backcare.org.uk have backpacks that have been designed for school kids to help minimise the strain on their backs.


If your child complains of back or neck pain then give us a call or book an appointment to see how we can help.