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Protect your child’s back

As a practising osteopath and a parent, I know only too well the dilemma over choosing a school bag that is both suitable for carrying books and that children will find ‘acceptable’ to use with the ever increasing peer pressure.

Having watched children walking to and from school, frequently under the weight of a heavy school bag and treating an increasing number of children for neck, shoulder and back pain, I thought now was an ideal time to write this article before you buy your child their next school bag.

The facts

The reality is that children’s skeletons are still growing during their school years and those that carry more than 15% of their body weight are at risk of suffering backache and developing a bad posture which may predispose them to long-term chronic pain.

BackCare, the charity for healthier backs, claim that many children’s school bags are as much as 20-25% of their body weight. What has made this issue worse is the trend to wear backpacks on one shoulder as this creates a greater strain on the spine.

Choosing a bag

Firstly, choose a bag that is light (but strong) and is the right shape and length for your child’s back. Backpacks are best as they have two shoulder straps and the preference is for these straps to be wide, padded and adjustable. A backpack with hip straps is even better as it offers extra support for your child’s back. Do not buy a bag that is any bigger than necessary as the tendency is to fill a bag to full capacity. Compared to 10 years ago, overloaded school bags are now up to double the size!

Tips on avoiding ack pain

  • Backpacks should be worn on both shoulders and straps should be tightened to create a snug fit.
  • Pack the heaviest items closest to your back.
  • Encourage your child to pack their school bag each night with only what is needed for the next day.
  • Check your child’s bag to ensure nothing unnecessary is being carried and periodically weigh it to check that it is not more than 15% of their body weight.
  • Encourage your child to use a school locker and so avoid carrying a bag when it is not necessary.
  • Avoid attaching heavy accessories to a bag.
  • It is ideal if both arms are kept free so that they can naturally swing forward and back as you walk. If there are occasions when your child cannot fit everything into a bag, encourage them to keep themselves balanced by carrying something either in their arms and close to their body or distributed evenly between both hands.

If your child is suffering from back pain or you need advice on a schoolbag, one of our Osteopaths would be happy to help.