back pain

Back to school – how much should your child’s backpack weigh?

There’s been lots of controversy over how much your child’s backpack should weigh.  It’s suggested that a child’s schoolbag, irrespective of their age should weigh about 10% of their body weight with a backpack style school bag.

When you move your child’s backpack after he or she drops it, does it feel like 20kgs?

Maybe they’re complaining about shoulder and back pain?

Maybe you’ve noticed your child struggling to put it on, bending forward while carrying it ? 

These could be little signs that your child’s backpack is not suited to your child. A bag that is too heavy can cause your child to increase the natural curvatures on the spine, prompting upper back rounding, and a ‘forward head posture’, where the chin is poked further forward. Furthermore, slinging a bag on one shoulder can create muscular imbalances as your child will be repetitively loading his/her body asymmetrically.

Backpacks that are too heavy can cause a lot of problems for kids, like back and shoulder pain, and poor posture.


Tips for fitting your child’s backpack

Here are some things to consider when fitting a backpack:

  • Wear both straps of the backpack – discourage child from slinging on one shoulder, as this can create muscular imbalances which can lead to postural issues down the track.
  • Place heavier items closer to your child’s back and lighter items in the pockets further away.
  • Try and keep the backpack light- less than 10% of your child’s weight where possible.
  • Encourage your child to be organised and only pack what they need for that day.
  • Encourage your child to be physically active to keep his/her muscles and bones strong while they develop.
  • Buy a backpack with wide and padded shoulder straps that are comfortable for your child.
  • Waist and chest straps help to transfer some of the load- so should be encouraged to be used.
  • Try not to buy a big back pack to ‘grow into’ – to test to see if the backpack is too big, when the child sits, the backpack should not extend higher than the child’s shoulders.


If you have any concerns about posture, back or shoulder pain, contact an Accredited Exercise Physiologist for advice.