With the new school year well underway, parents should use this helpful checklist to make sure that a heavy school backpack isn’t causing their children discomfort.
It should never be underestimated how rigorous the school day can be on children, especially when it comes to carrying everything they need between home and school and between classes. Almost every child has a bag or backpack to help carry things such as schoolbooks, packed lunches and gym clothes. Sometimes they may have multiple bags to carry in one day, which is a lot of frequent heavy lifting for a child.
However, it’s not just the weight of a school backpack that can negatively affect a child’s posture. How they wear it also has an effect, for instance if they carry it by one strap rather than two. A backpack that is too heavy, low-hanging or carried on one shoulder can put a lot of strain on a child’s posture and if left unchecked, lead to back pain and other muscular strains.
Is your child’s school backpack causing pain?
I had a recent experience in dealing with someone affected by this – a parent approached me seeking advice for her 10-year-old son, who had been feeling pain in his shoulder after prolonged use of his school backpack. After offering my advice to this parent, I thought that it would be good to put together what I had suggested into a guide that others could follow, as this is a problem that many children will be facing at this time of year after several weeks back in the school routine.
If you are a parent whose child uses a backpack every day, then here is a checklist you should use to make sure that they are not being put at risk of injury or posture problems due to backpack use:
- A full backpack should only weigh around 10% of your child’s body weight.
- Ensure that items are evenly distributed throughout the bag, in different pouches for instance. Heavy items like textbooks should be put in the compartment that puts them closest to the spine – this will make it easier to carry.
- Where possible, a child should leave any unnecessary items at home – this can be difficult if they do a lot of activities at school such as sports that require them to carry multiple bags and essential items of kit/clothing, but taking steps to prepare in advance and minimise excess items means less things to carry and lighter bags.
- When it comes to things like textbooks, children should of course make sure they bring everything they need but also try to minimise carrying all of them around all day. If lockers are available in their school, children should use them to store heavy textbooks or sports bags between classes to save carrying them around.
- A backpack should be positioned so not putting strain on back – if a backpack hangs lower than four inches above the waist, then it is too low, and this will lead to poor posture and strain on the back and shoulders.
- A child’s backpack should be the right size (neither too wide/big or small/narrow) and having padded straps can help distribute the load.
- Children should avoid wearing backpacks on only one shoulder, as over time this may cause misalignment or imbalance in the spine and lead to back and shoulder pain. If they wear a satchel or single-strap bag instead, then they should frequently swap the shoulder on which they wear it in order to not put too much strain on one side.
- If your child must carry additional items such as sports bags or musical instruments, they should try to carry them by hand rather than a shoulder strap.
I hope that these points prove useful for parents looking to help their children avoid back and shoulder pain from their school backpacks. It can of course be difficult to minimise what they carry to and from school due to the requirements of their classes, but making steps to wear their backpack in the most comfortable and optimal position will lower the risk of putting strain on their posture.
For any more advice for parents or if you are seeking chiropractic services for yourself or your children, be sure to get in touch with our clinic on 0141 887 0444.