Are school bags harming your child's spine?
Yet another summer is gone and we send our kids back to school. There is one essential item that requires very special attention: your child's backpack. Backpack weight is becoming an increasing problem, and studies show that heavy backpacks can lead to both back pain and poor posture in children. Experts claim that many youngsters are carrying as much as 20 per cent of their weight to and from school, and some up to 25 per cent.
‘We are seeing increasing numbers of young adults coming for treatment in relation to back trouble and this can often be traced back to carrying heavy bags to school,’ warns Dr. Peter Skew, vice-president of BackCare with special interest in musculoskeletal medicine. He adds: ‘Children’s skeletons are still developing, and having a heavy bag slung over one shoulder can exert unnatural force on the spine, muscles and attachments.
Bulging backpacks are a significant risk to children. Weight of the bag is not the only factor to consider: the type of bag your child is carrying can contribute to pain and strain. The good news is that there are some things we can do to prevent back pains and other problems due to carrying a heavy backpack. The best load should be around 10 percent.
Tips for parents
Make sure your child's backpack weighs no more than 10 percent of his or her body weight. A heavier backpack will cause your child to stoop forward in an attempt to support the additional weight.
Don't Wear it too Low. The backpack should never hang more than 4 inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing your child to lean forward when walking.
Urge your child to wear both shoulder straps. Lugging the backpack around by one strap can cause a disproportionate shift of weight to one side, leading to neck and muscle spasms, as well as low-back pain.
Wide, padded straps are very important. Non-padded straps are uncomfortable, and can dig into your child's shoulders.
The shoulder straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to your child's body. Straps that are too loose can cause the backpack to dangle uncomfortably and cause spinal misalignment and pain.
A backpack with individual compartments helps position the contents most effectively. Make sure to place the heaviest items closest to the spine, which is the centre of gravity, to reduce the strain.