Photo: woods wheatcroft photography

Backpacks at School: Tips to Protect Your Children’s Health and Safety

Back to school…already!?  Yep, time for the annual ritual of buying new clothes and school supplies…and backpacks. The quality of kid’s backpacks is every bit as important to their health and safety as the quality of their winter coats.

In addition to being a chiropractor, I am a retired Marine and an avid hiker. Needless to say, I have spent a lot of time with a pack on my back. I cannot overemphasize the importance of choosing the right pack and wearing it properly. Here are three important tips for making sure your child’s backpack is a useful accessory rather than a health threat.

Easy on the weight! Studies show that most kids carry packs that are too heavy for them causing excessive stress on their still-developing spines. Your child’s fully loaded backpack should not exceed 15% of his or her body weight. For example, if your child weighs 100 pounds, the pack should be no more than 15 pounds. And for some kids, even that may be too much. If wearing the pack causes pain or stiffness, or your child has to lean forward to carry the pack, it is too heavy.

Buy a good quality backpack that fits properly. The pack should not be longer or wider than the torso and should have padded shoulder straps to prevent pressure and discomfort on the neck and shoulders. A hip belt helps to stabilize and evenly distribute the load. The right backpack will be comfortable to carry when fully loaded.

            Carry it right. Would a mountaineer climb a mountain wearing a pack with just one strap? Never!  Your child should always use both straps to carry the pack. Carrying it with just one strap slung over a shoulder puts excessive stress on the spine. When wearing the pack, tighten the shoulder straps so that they are comfortably snug but not too tight. Loose straps put a strain on the low back. Tight straps can cause a stiff neck, and pain, tingling, or numbness in the shoulders and arms. The hip belt should fit snugly at the top of the hips.

Following these guidelines will help to prevent undue stress on kids’ developing spines. It is important to follow these guidelines even if your child uses a backpack with rollers. Roller packs still must be carried up stairs, onto school busses, and through snow.

Spinal health is important for everybody, especially children. The spine is the most important support structure in the body and is critical in the functioning of the nervous system. Misalignments in the vertebrae can lead to problems in a child’s health and growth. It is important for children (even infants) to have their spines checked by a chiropractor to insure that they are developing properly and functioning to their fullest potential.

            Dr. Cochran has chiropractic offices in Sandpoint and Hayden. You can reach him at 208-304-2330 or You can also visit his websites: and

Photo by Monkey Mash Button

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