Carrying too much weight in a pack or wearing a pack incorrectly can cause long-term back problems unless parents take steps to ensure that their children wear packs correctly. Increasingly heavy school backpacks are putting the nation’s students at risk and may be causing long term damage to their growing bodies, according to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). AOTA says students should carry no more than 15% of their body weight in a school backpack.

AOTA is urging school officials to work together with parents, students and occupational therapy practitioners to reduce the risks from improper use of school backpacks. “Every year, we’re seeing more children with stooped shoulders, sore necks and aching backs from carrying school backpacks, and we can’t afford to put our kids at risk for a lifetime of chronic health problems” says AOTA Executive Director Joseph C. Isaacs, CAE. He recommends:
Selecting a pack: · Choose a pack that's appropriate to the child's size and age. School backpacks come in different sizes for different ages.
Select a pack with well-padded shoulder straps. The shoulders and neck are rich in blood vessels and nerves that when constricted can cause pain and tingling in the neck, arms, and hands.
Choose a pack with a waistbelt to be fastened for extra support and to help transfer the weight from the shoulders to the body's trunk and hips.
Consider a pack with reflective trim to increase visibility of kids who carry the school backpack in the evening.
When shopping for a school backpack, take along books and other materials that the child would carry to judge how each pack varies when fully loaded.

Loading a pack:
Never allow a child to carry more than 15% of his or her body weight. That means a child who weighs 100 pounds should not carry a school backpack that weighs more than 15 pounds.
Load heaviest items closest to the child's back.
Pack items neatly and organized to keep books and materials from sliding around in the pack, shifting the weight.
If a pack is too heavy, consider using one on wheels.

Wearing a pack:
Always wear both shoulder straps to distribute weight evenly. Wearing a pack slung over one shoulder can cause a person to lean to one side and curve the spine.
Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly to the child's back. A pack that hangs loosely from the back can pull the child backwards and strain muscles between the shoulders.
The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than four inches below the child's waistline.