There has been a noticeable increase in the number of children and teenagers presenting with neck and back pain for physiotherapy in recent years. In my opinion a more sedentary lifestyle is partially responsible for this trend.
However, the impact of heavy school bags cannot be ignored as a significant contributing factor. The provision of lockers, altering of timetables and use of technology has all helped to somewhat lessen the load but the weight of the average school bag is still excessive.
There are a variety of ergonomically designed school bags available on the market. However, irrespective of the quality of the school bag itself, how it is worn and packed is extremely important to lessen the load on the spine.
What Type of School Bag?
• Don’t try to save money by buying the biggest school bag you can find – make sure the back pack is appropriate to your child’s size.
• Choose a school bag with a moulded frame and preferably an adjustable hip strap, so that the weight of the filled school bag will rest on your child’s pelvis instead of their shoulders and spine.
• The shoulder straps should be adjustable, and the rear of the back pack padded for comfort.
• Consider buying a school bag with built-in wheels so the bag can be pulled along when it’s too heavy to put on a back.
• Children are fashion conscious and vulnerable to peer pressure, so make sure you take your child with you when buying their school bag. If the style you choose is ‘uncool’, your child may compensate by carrying the school bag in a ‘cool’ way, such as over one shoulder.
Packing the School Bag
• Pack the heaviest items so they are closest to the child’s back. If the heaviest items are packed further away, this throws out the child’s centre of gravity and causes unnecessary back strain.
• Make sure that items can’t move around during transit, as this could upset your child’s centre of gravity – use the back pack’s compartments.