Back to School Spine Safety

Brighton Beach Physio - Friday, February 03, 2017

As everyone is getting ready to head back to school, we here at Brighton Beach Physiotherapy Centre decided that it might be a good idea to give a few hints and tips on how to help your kids take care of their backs.

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) recommends that children should never wear back packs that are more than 10% of their body weight. Unfortunately, research has shown us that as many as 61% of children (aged 12-17years) carries back packs that are heavier than recommended, on a daily basis. And as many as 21% of children develop back pain that lasts longer than 6months, every year.


We know an overloaded or incorrectly-worn backpack can be a major source of chronic strain, and can cause shoulder, neck and back pain in children. Stress put on the spine (from a heavy back pack) can cause your child to lean too far forward and experience distortion of the natural spinal curve, rolling their shoulders and causing a more rounded upper-back. Neck and shoulder pain can also develop from wearing a bag on one shoulder, or a bag with straps that are too thin that dig into the shoulder muscles and strain the neck. From experience, we know that injuries in a person’s youth, when not properly treated and managed, can also often cause issues later in life.

Key tips to remember when your child starts school:

  • Wear backpack load close to the spine - pack the heaviest items closest to your child’s back
  • Children must wear both straps at all times
  • Make use of the waist and chest straps to distribute load to the hips and pelvis
  • Ensure the shoulder straps are tight enough so the top of the pack sits at, or above shoulder height
  • Backpacks should always weigh less than 10% of your child’s body weight
  • Ensure your child is carrying only what they need
    • Encourage your child to be organised and check their timetable when packing their bag for school
    • To decrease the load, your child should have separate folders for each subject so that they can only bring home what they need for their homework
  • Parents should contact a physiotherapist if they are concerned about their child's posture and/or back health related conditions.


Five things to look for when choosing a back pack:

  • Wide shoulder straps that are comfortable and sit well on the shoulders
  • Waist and chest straps to help transfer some of the load to the hips and pelvis
  • A padded back-support that allows the pack to fit ‘snugly’ on the back
  • Backpacks should never hang lower than the child’s lower back
    • Use shoulder straps to adjust as needed
  • The backpack must fit the child. Don’t buy a big pack to ‘grow’ into
    • When sitting with the backpack on, the pack should not extend higher than the child’s shoulders

    For more information or to speak to one of our physiotherapists, feel free to call (08) 9304 4100.