Tips for a Pain-free Back-to-School

Tips for a Pain-free Back-to-School

The summer is quickly coming to an end, and soon children all across the United States will start complaining about something more painful than homework when they head back to school. According to one study of American students ages 11 to 15 years, 64% reported complaints of back pain related to heavy backpacks. In fact more than half of students carry a backpack that is heavier than the recommended guideline of 10% of the student’s total body weight and thousands of backpack-related injuries are treated at hospital emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, and clinics each year. Thankfully, a study published in 2002 on the effect of backpack education on student behavior and health showed nearly 8 out of 10 middle school students who changed how they loaded and wore their backpacks reported less pain and strain in their backs, necks, and shoulders. Hence, the American Occupational Therapy Association created the annual School Backpack Awareness Day and will celebrate it on September 16th. Here are some tips they provide for a pain-free back-to-school for your child.

Warning Signs of a Backpack That’s Too Heavy

Difficulty picking up or taking off the backpack

Tingling or numbing of legs or arms

Pain when wearing the backpack

Red strap marks on the front of the shoulders

Ways to Improve Backpack Wearing

Pack heavier items in the back and center and lighter items in the front

Load with no more than 10% of child’s weight to prevent spinal damage or falls

Carry with both straps in use at all times and snug to the back

Put on by bending and lifting using the knees instead of at the waist

Adjust to keep it below the shoulders and up to the top of the hipbones

I hope you find these tips helpful. If your child has returned back to school with pain or shows weakness from carrying his or her school load after making adjustments, consider consulting with your pediatrician about the possible need of occupational or physical therapy services. Have a playful day!

Amy Baez, MOT, OTR/L

Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and Founder of Playapy. For more information about Playapy services and products, visit or email [email protected]