In response to the approaching school year and September 19 National School Backpack Awareness Day, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has released key recommendations to protect against the potentially long-lasting low back pain that can develop as a result of incorrectly wearing backpacks or carrying heavy backpacks. The AOTA reports that the heavy backpacks carried by more than 79 million students nationwide can cause low back pain that often lasts through adulthood.

Karen Jacobs, EdD, OTR/L, CPE, clinical professor of occupational therapy, Boston University, emphasizes that, “A child wearing a backpack incorrectly or that is too heavy can be contributing risk factors for discomfort, fatigue, muscle soreness, and muscoskeletal pain especially in the lower back.” 

An AOTA news release reports that thousands of students, educators, parents, and health professionals will commemorate National Backpack Awareness Day with backpack weigh-ins, backpack check-ups, activities, and special event.

The AOTA recommends that parents select a backpack that is the correct size for their child. Well-padded shoulder straps on both shoulders help ensure that the backpack’s weight is evenly balance. The AOTA notes that the height of the backpack should extend approximately 2-inches below the shoulder blades to waist level or slightly above. Another reported tip encourages parents to distribute weight evenly when loading the backpack, noting that the addition of a hip belt can help improve balance and remove strain from the neck and shoulder muscles.  If the backpack weighs more than 10% of the child’s weight, the AOTA advises that a book bag on wheels may prove to be a more appropriate choice.

For more information about National Backpack Awareness Day, visit

Source: AOTA