Backpack Basics: Picking The Right Size For Kids


As kids return to school backpacks become an important part of their daily lives, and appropriate sizing is important to good ergonomics. Backpacks should be no longer than a child’s back. The ideal height and width can be found by taking 2 measurements of a child’s back, or by using an average child size chart (see Below) and adjusting as necessary.

The core and hip muscles carry much of a backpack’s weight so support is key. For the best support backpacks should be centered between the shoulder blades. To find the right width measure between the ridges of the shoulder blades and add an extra inch or 2.

To find the right height measure from the shoulder line where the straps will rest to the waistline or belly button. Add 2 inches to that measurement and that gives you the maximum height for your child’s backpack.

A good ergonomic backpack should fit up to 4 inches below the waist and 2 inches below the shoulders.

Impact of inappropriate backpack size on your child’s spine.

Back pain in children is on the rise.

According to a study done of the University of California one third of all children age 11-14 report back pain.

A common theory among pediatric health care professionals is that backpacks are a leading cause of this back pain.  Why is a heavy backpack an issue? 

The force on the spine from a heavy backpack causes muscle strain, distorts the natural curves of the spine and compresses the intervertebral discs, which are the shock absorbers between the 33 bones that make up the spine.

These outcomes can occur in several different ways.  The first is that to compensate for a heavy backpack children lean forward which leads to rounded shoulders and a curve in the upper back leading to unnatural compression in the upper spine.

It can also increase the chances of falling.

Often children will wear a backpack using only one strap.  This unequal distribution of weight will cause a lean to one side, which strains the neck and shoulder muscles and creates imbalance.

But there is good news!

The damage done by a heavy backpack that has been worse incorrectly is completely reversible.  Follow the guidelines listed above and get your child’s spine checked on a regular basis by a chiropractor to ensure that those pesky backpacks aren’t causing irreversible damage to your child’s spine!


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