School Backpacks: A Lot of Weight on Young Shoulders. Protect Your Student from Injury with Our Tips!

Parents of school-age kids know just how heavy their students’ school bags have gotten over time. While making sure homework is done and books are packed, parents might not consider how those heavy bags can affect kids’ backs (and beyond). We give you some pointers for keeping your kids comfortable this school year (that don’t include getting rid of books)!

  • Ill-fitting, over-loaded, wrongly-sized, or wrongly-carried backpacks can cause neck, shoulder, and/or back pain. Think about all the times you’ve strained your own neck, shoulder, or back carrying something the wrong way. Your child carries his/her backpack five days a week! Depending on how old your child is, many older students haul their bags around between classes, too.

Tip: Make sure that your child is doing it right to avoid injury and pain with carrying his/her school work.  If your child already has discomfort, we tell you how to handle potential injury, too.



  • You’ve likely seen your kiddo grab his/her backpack by one strap and throw it over a shoulder. This is a big no-no! Carrying your backpack with one arm causes one side of the body to bear all the weight.

Tip: Have your student use both straps for even weight distribution. Make sure the backpack sits in the center of your child’s back.

  • While most backpacks come with adjustable straps, they only work if you use them. Over time and with weight, the packs may need to be adjusted again, too.

Tip: Periodically check to see if your child’s backpack straps fit snugly, allow full arm movement, but are loose enough your child can remove his/her backpack easily.


  • Your child might gravitate to the backpack in his/her favorite design or color. Kids are just as susceptible to marketing as their parents, making those cartoon and movie characters a big draw.

Tip: Find the right size for your child. You don’t want him/her to struggle carrying a pack that is far too large, for example.

  • As your child gets older, homework demands increase and so does the weight of your child’s backpack. Some days will likely see him/her lugging a laptop home, as schools integrate technology more frequently with lesson plans.

Tip: Have your child only carry 10-15% of his/her body weight in the backpack. If your child has more books or supplies required for the next day, have him/her carry some items separately. Better yet, reinforce the need to only bring what is necessary to and from school.

What should you do if you think that your child’s backpack is causing neck, shoulder, or back pain? Simple: schedule a visit with a physical therapist. A physical therapist will assess your child’s discomfort and any contributing factors, and develop a custom treatment plan. No one wants to miss work and school, too – that’s why having direct access to physical therapy is one of the best features (and often most misunderstood) of planning an appointment. Your physical therapist will communicate with your insurance carrier as well as your physician if further visits are warranted, but by starting at your physical therapist you can be diagnosed by a medical pro and often move right into time-saving treatment!

Are you or your child dealing with back, shoulder, or neck pain (caused by a backpack or otherwise)? Don’t accept that pain and discomfort are just “a part of life.” At Body One Physical Therapy, our highly-trained, caring providers aim to make that just a temporary part of life! We work with clients of all ages and activity levels and would love to help you get back to feeling great. We’re locally-owned, with three locations serving Central Indiana, making it easy to find what fits your busy life: North Indianapolis, Fishers, and Zionsville. Call today and schedule your appointment!