Back to School – Staying pain free

Dr Camille Powell B.App.Sc.(Clinical), M.H.Sc.(Osteo)

It is that time again when we are getting ready to go back to school, we have re-stocked the pencil case, gotten the lunch box out and made sure the school uniform still fits. Have you thought about the back pack? Has your child grown? Have you adjusted the straps? What are the essentials they carry daily and what can we take out to reduce the load?

At Western Region Osteopathy we see a number of school aged children and teens that sustain injuries associated with carrying back packs on a regular basis. Repetitive loading of heavy back packs combined with poor ergonomics can be a source of dysfunction and can cause chronic back and shoulder pain.  In an effort to reduce strains and sprains we recommend that you take the following guidelines for backpack ergonomics into account and watch out for specific signs that your child may be at risk of injury in the future. 

(Photo source

√      Only pack what is actually required. This may mean emptying the bag in the morning or evening to remove what won’t be needed for the day.

√      Make sure the backpack is sturdy and appropriately sized- this means, no wider than the chest

√      When purchasing backpack make sure it has a waist strap- ensure child uses it

√      Place the heaviest items at back of backpack, closest to the spine for even distribution of weight

√      Backpack weight should not exceed 10-15% of body weight - Otherwise use a case with wheels.

√      Always use both shoulder straps – never sling the pack over one shoulder.

√      Do not wear the backpack any lower than the hollow of the lower back


Signs that your child’s back pack may be doing damage:

×       Red marks on shoulders

×       Neck pain or pain between the shoulder blades

×       Poor posture, slouching or rolling shoulders inwards

×       Complaints of headaches

×       Reported tingling or numbness in the hands or arms

×       Fatigue






Please note, the advice above is generalised and may not be specific to your situation. If you have any questions regarding backpack use or any general enquiries about musculoskeletal health, or to book an appointment, please do not hesitate to contact the clinic on (03) 97470077.

General - Posted on 16th January 2017

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