Choosing and wearing a backpack

Dr. Vic Weatherall
Updated December 2014

When getting ready to go back to school, students and their parents should take the time to choose the right backpack. Poorly designed or improperly worn packs can cause discomfort and even injury. Ontario’s chiropractors consider overloaded backpacks to be a leading cause of back and neck pain. This article describes the basic concepts for choosing and wearing a backpack.

Tips for choosing the right backpack:

  • The size should be proportionate to the wearer’s body size and not larger than what is needed. The top of the backpack should be no higher than the top of the shoulder and the bottom no lower than the top of the hipbone.
  • It should be lightweight and durable.
  • The shoulder straps should be at least two inches wide, adjustable, and padded. They should not fit too snugly around and under the arms.
  • The back should be padded for added protection and comfort.
  • It should have a hip strap or waist belt to help reduce the strain on the back by transferring some of the load to the hips.
  • It should have several pockets instead of one large compartment, this helps to distribute the weight evenly and keeps the contents from shifting.

Tips for backpack wearers:

  • Wear both straps and adjust them so that the pack fits snugly—you should be able to slide your hand between the backpack and your back.
  • Don’t sling your backpack on one side— it puts excess stress on your neck, shoulder, and back.
  • Don’t carry your backpack too low— it will make you lean forward and puts the weight on your upper back.
  • Finally, and most importantly, don’t overload your backpack!

For more information, read Pack it Light. Wear it Right from the Ontario Chiropractic Association.

Contact Dr. Weatherall if you have any questions or to see if he can help you with a problem.