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Beware of Issues Caused by Poorly Fitted Backpacks

For Immediate Release: Sept. 2, 2014

Contact Information:
Eric Cardin, SCPT Executive Director, 508-832-2628

AUBURN _ School is back in session soon and it’s important that students begin the school year with a properly fitting backpack. Ill-fitting or overloaded backpacks can cause a variety of injuries ranging from lower back pain, to neck spasms, shoulder strain and headaches.

Last year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that more than 28,000 people were treated for backpack related injuries in the United States. Of that figure, approximately 8,500 were children between the ages of 5 and 18.

“It’s important to be cognizant of the weight and style of your child’s backpack. Often a backpack is only chosen for its looks, however, weight and correct fit are the two main considerations when deciding the backpack for your child,” said South County Physical Therapy, Inc. Executive Director, Eric Cardin. “Most physicians and physical therapists recommend that children carry no more than 10 percent – 15 percent of their body weight in the backpacks. That means, for a 100 pound child, the maximum weight they should be carrying is 15 pounds.”

If a backpack is too heavy, or incorrectly placed on the shoulders, the weight can force a child to be pulled backwards, and the child will over compensate by bending forward. This can lead to shoulder, neck and back pain. Similarly, backpacks worn on one shoulder do not distribute the weight of the backpack evenly, often causing a child to lean to one side. This can sometimes cause lower and upper back pain, as well as neck and shoulder strain.

Parents can help circumvent potential injuries by choosing the correct backpack. Select a backpack that is properly sized for your child and be less concerned about its looks.

Other suggestions include:

  • Buying a lightweight backpack.
  • Wide, padded shoulder straps.
  • Multiple compartments to distribute weight evenly.
  • A padded back, which helps to minimize direct pressure on the back.
  • A waist belt that can help to distribute the weight of the backpack evenly.

Additional tips include:

  • Loading the heaviest items closest to the child’s back.
  • Packing only items that your child will need for that day.
  • Tighten the straps so the pack fits snugly and does not hang loosely.
  • Wearing the backpack over the strongest mid-back muscles. It should lie evenly in the middle of the back and not extend below the belt line by more than a couple of inches.
  • Active children have more muscle flexibility, which makes wearing a backpack more comfortable.

“Backpacks worn incorrectly can also lead to poor posture. Smaller children and girls are more susceptible to back-related injuries and often carry more than they should proportionate to their weight,” Cardin said, adding, “As a physical therapist and as a parent, I cannot stress enough the importance of a proper backpack fitting.”

To learn more about proper backpack fittings call 508-832-2628.

For nearly 30 years, South County Physical Therapy, Inc. has been dedicated to providing its patients with quality, personalized rehabilitative care in an environment that is safe, comfortable and compassionate. As a privately owned company, the organization has given back to numerous charitable organizations in the communities it serves, and seeks to make a difference in promoting wellness and health awareness. The company offers six locations in Central Massachusetts that include: Auburn, Charlton, Millbury, Westborough (East Main Street and Oak Street) and Worcester. For more information, visit

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