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Choosing the right school bag

Using the right school bag can reduce risk of injuring your spine

Choosing the right school bag is a lot like buying new shoes. A good bag should fit properly and provide support. Yet studies show that many children continue to suffer ‘bad bag syndrome’ which can lead to lifelong spine dysfunction. Back pain is just one sign of a lazy school bag that makes your child’s back do the carrying work. Muscle soreness, spasms and even numbness are some of the others.

These injuries are affecting children of all ages. In the 2004, Massey University found that younger college students typically bore heavier loads than older students. Children are therefore more exposed at their most developmental stages, which could lead to compression and curvature of the spine.

If your child slouches or stoops, then the chances are that his or her school bag could be doing potential damage.

Buying the best school bag

A common trap for parents is the pressure to buy in to latest fashions at the expense of bag performance. However, good designers recognise that a backpack can be smart in both looks and ergonomic design. When shopping for a Spine-Sensitive School bag, remember The Triple S:


Size matters: A school backpack should sit no more than 3cm higher than the shoulders and no lower than the hips. ‘Investing’ in a large pack to ‘grow into’ is a false economy. Children who are five to ten years old require child-sized (Medium) bags, preferably with growth buckles. Large sizes are only suitable for older children, tweens or teenagers.


Support is key: Children should never carry more than 10% of their body weight. The best backpacks take a load off, not add to it. A smart pack is:

  • Padded with a contoured or ergonomic back feature to fit the spine and buffer the body from sharp objects. Look for packs that have an internal support frame to help load bearing
  • Adjustable shoulder straps which are also padded and ergonomically curved to protect nerve endings and avoid chaffing. Padded grab handles are a plus
  • Compartmentalised for even weight distribution
  • Kept in place so that it sits at the top of the hip and stays close to your back without overheating. Some bags even have an anatomic airflow system that cools the child’s back.


Style still counts. How children rate their bags determines if and how they will wear them. Backpacks that are made to look great as well as last are less likely to be slung over one shoulder only. Smart brands know how to add funky touches without compromising on durable fabrics. A pack that is worth its guarantee might have webbed seams, moulded self-standing bases, rain covers and dirt repelling PU coating.


How to pack and put on your backpack

Teach your children to pack their bags correctly to reduce the impact of heavy loads.
Six Ps make posture perfect:

  • Pack heaviest items closest to the spine to maintain a centre of gravity
  • Put on both shoulder straps
  • Position the pack lumber padding in the small of the back
  • Pull the straps until the pack stays flush against the torso and a finger slides under the shoulder straps
  • Pick up the pack with knees bent
  • Push with the thigh muscles and lift with a straight back


Orthopaedic and Ergonomic School Bags

Shopping for the right school bag is an important consideration and should include careful research. There are a number of factors to consider for your child.

TOTEM Orthopaedic and Ergonomic School Bags include a range of backpacks that have been perfected over the year to protect your children’s back. For more information, visit

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