Australian children will give a collective groan about going back to school today, but now is the perfect time to check their school bags won’t cause pain or injury. “A heavy backpack increases the risk of poor posture and possible injury,” said Dr Patricia Thomas, Osteopathy Australia Board President and Sydney osteopath.
Back pain is common in Australian children, particularly during adolescence. According to Australian rheumatologists, some causes of back pain in young people include poor posture, inappropriate forms of exercise and carrying heavy schoolbags.
“Heavy backpacks are a real problem. Children will often compensate for the weight with a forward head posture which puts stress on the whole body, especially the lower back and neck,” she said.
A forward head positioning can cause pain, poor posture and potential permanent damage to growing spines. Backpack weight can be kept lower by carrying only the essential books for the day and using a locker at school. Students can also partner with a friend to share a textbook during class, reducing some of the load.
“Some textbooks have soft copies available, greatly reducing the need to carry the heavy textbook to and from school,” said Dr Thomas. “If your child uses a laptop or tablet at school, they might not need to carry textbooks at all.”
In addition to keeping the weight low, it is critical that children have a good quality backpack and wear it properly.
Top tips when purchasing and wearing a backpack:
- Make sure the backpack is the right size – it should be no wider than the child’s chest
- Comfort and fit should be first priority, not looks
- Choose a backpack that has wide shoulder straps with padding
- Always use both shoulder straps. Wearing a pack on one shoulder curves the spine unnaturally, putting stress on the whole body
- Don’t wear the backpack below the small of the back
- Use the waist straps to help evenly distribute the weight of the pack
Image via backpacksreviewed.com