As school bags are dusted off in readiness for the 2014 school year, the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia NT (CAANT) would like to take time this month to warn parents and students about the long term impact of poorly fitted or over loaded backpacks and school bags.
As our children grow and have to carry more, there is mounting evidence that shows how much stress, heavy school bags can place on growing spines1. This repetitive stress can lead to acute and longer spinal related complaints, and the fact is, lugging an overloaded school bag to and from school can have health implications to our children.
According to an international study1, daily backpack carrying is a frequent cause of discomfort for school children. School backpacks were felt to be “heavy” by 79.1% of children, to cause fatigue by 65.7% and to cause back pain by 46.1%.
My usual advice to minimise the risk, is that students should limit the weight they carry in a school backpack to no more than 15 per cent of their body weight. In the real world that’s around 6-7.5 kilos for a 40-50kg student. This may seem like a difficult prospect, as the weight of a school bag quickly adds up when you throw in a few text books, a pencil case, a lunch box and a water bottle. However lifting a bag that is too heavy can cause immediate strain on the spine and the longer a child carries that load, the more severe the damage can become.
Additionally the problem can also be compounded further by factors outside of parental control, like poor posture and the “fashion factor‟, which dictates the latest trendy way for carrying a bag, which is never in line with the inbuilt ergonomic features. However a little extra parental thought on how to trim some weight in your child’s school bag will go a long way in reducing this impact.
Even if you’re considering a wheeled trolley bag, new research comparing backpack and trolley usage amongst six to eight year olds found that the trolley group was characterised by spinal rotation, which could add extra stress to growing backs. Not to mention the fact that students may have to pull the bag over rough ground or grassy areas as well as lift it up stairs and on and off public transport.
School is a challenging time for our children, so ensuring they are as comfortable as possible is important to their physical and mental development. A back’s best bet, according to the CAANT is a fitted backpack, worn properly over both shoulders with the waist band done up.
If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact one of our local CAA NT Chiropractors today.
1. Negrini, S., & Carabalona, R (2002). Backpacks On! School childrens perceptions of load, associations with back pain and factors determining the load. Spine. 27(2). 187-195.