Did you know that school bags can damage the spine and cause your child back pain if not worn correctly?

Spinal stress and dysfunction that causes pain may affect your child when studying and participating is sport and recreation. Ensuring that your child is carrying a safe load to and from school is a good way to begin addressing their spinal health.

Around 70% of Australian school children may suffer back pain from carrying heavy or incorrectly fitted school bags. For example: A heavy bag that is slung over one shoulder can, over 12 years of schooling, cause chronic back problems that linger in to adulthood.

Risks that can be involved in carrying a heavy or incorrectly fitted school bag include;

  • Muscle strains
  • Distortion of the natural ‘S’ curve of the spine
  • Rounding of the shoulders

To help reduce the risk of your child suffering back pain, follow the below guidelines!

When buying a backpack you should;

  • Make sure the backpack is appropriate to the child’s size.
  • Canvas backpacks are lighter than leather backpacks
  • The shoulder straps should be adjustable, and the rear of the backpack padded for comfort
  • Choose a backpack with a moulded frame and/or adjustable hip strap, so that the weight of the filled backpack will rest on your child’s pelvis instead of their shoulders and spine
  • Look for a backpack endorsed by an Australian professional organisation, such as the Australian Physiotherapy Association
  • To help with packing, the backpack should ideally have a few separate compartments

When packing your child’s backpack;

  • Pack the heaviest items so they are closest to the child’s back. If the heavier items are packed further away this throws off the child’s centre of gravity and causes unnecessary back strain.
  • The backpack should weigh less than 10% of your child’s bodyweight. For example; a child of 40kg should carry less that 4kg in their backpack
  • Make sure that items can’t move around during transit, as this could upset your child’s centre of gravity, use the backpack’s compartments.

Correct lifting and carrying techniques;

  • Adjust the shoulder straps so that the bottom of the backpack is just above the child’s waist. Don’t allow them to wear the backpack slung over their buttocks.
  • If your child has to lean over, their backpack is too heavy, incorrectly fitted or wrongly packed.
  • When fitted correctly, the back should contour snugly to the child’s back, rather than hang off their shoulder
  • Make sure that your child understands that carrying the backpack over one shoulder will cause back pain and potential injury.

By Megghan Ryan – Elite Myotherapist