Bag to School – What bag is right for your child


Bag to School – What bag is right for your child

Backpacks for Back to School

Soon after the school year begins, I start seeing a parade of patients complaining of pain, numbness, or tingling in the back, neck, or shoulder—sometimes all three. I can usually tell just by looking at them in waiting room what the problem is: It’s the backpack resting on the floor next to them. In the exam room, I ask them to put on the backpack and walk around a bit. They’re often bending forward just to carry the weight. Often the pack itself doesn’t fit well or is unbalanced on the back. If they don’t have a backpack with them, I ask if they usually carry one for their school stuff. The answer is almost always yes. Fixing the backpack problem goes a long way toward fixing the physical problem.

Lighten the Load

The vast majority of my patients are carrying backpacks that are just too heavy.

The weight you carry around in your backpack should be no more than 15 percent of your body weight. If you weigh 120 pounds, for example, the load you carry—which includes the weight of the pack itself—shouldn’t exceed 18 pounds. That sounds like a lot, but when I have some of my patients put their backpacks on the scale, they weigh in at 30 pounds or more. Books, gym clothes, lunch, water bottle, laptop—it all adds up. Lighten the load by asking yourself what you really need that day and what you can easily do without or leave in your locker or car.

Choose the Right Pack

The single biggest mistake I see with backpacks is the wrong size—the pack is often too large. Look for a backpack that is no wider or longer than your torso; it should go no lower than four inches below your waist. Sure, a big backpack is nice and roomy, but chances are that the stuff you haul around will expand to fill it and the pack will end up overstuffed and way too heavy.

When choosing a pack, look for one with two wide, padded shoulder straps, a padded back, and a waist strap. Choose a sturdy, lightweight fabric. Tighten the shoulder straps to help distribute the weight of the pack evenly across your back. Use the waist strap to keep the pack close to your body instead of letting it hang back off the shoulders. To keep the weight from shifting around, get a backpack with several inside and external compartments. Put heavier items in the bottom part of the pack.


Dr. Robert Silverman
Dr. Robert Silverman, on in Health and Wellness