Your Child's School Bag

We are coming up to that time of year when children across the country pack books, lunches, laptops and sports kits into their bags for the start of another school year. But what if the heavy physical load your children are carrying is actually hurting them?

A growing number of children are developing irreversible back deformities because of the weight of the bags they carry.

Not only are they carrying too much weight, they are either carrying it on one shoulder or too low on the back. These habits can strain the muscles and cause muscle inbalances that can lead to back pain.

I would recommend that the weight of your child's school bag should not exceed 15% of their total body weight. At the present time the back care charity claims that many children are carrying as much as 20 - 25% of their weight ultimately risking long term damage to the spine.

When choosing a school bag for your child consider the following points:

  • Make sure that the shoulder straps are adjustable and at least two inches wide.

  • Select a bag with individualised compartments.

  • If choosing a back pack style of bag (which I highly recommend) it is advisable to have a hip strap, waist belt or frame to redistribute the weight of the bag from the shoulders and back to the pelvis.

  • If it is allowed by the school, opt for a bag with wheels so that it can be pulled.

Making changes to how your child's bag is packed and worn can help as well:

  • Bags worn on the back should fit tight to the body and not hang below the lower back.

  • Never carry a bag on one shoulder. Use both shoulder straps

  • pack the heaviest items closest to the back.

  • use the compartments to fill with items that could shift during movement.

  • Notice if your child is leaning forward when walking with a back bag on. If so, it is too heavy.

You can help your children by looking through their school bags on a weekly basis and cleaning them out to avoid overloading. Your child's teacher may also be able to help out by making sure that only the books needed for homework are travelling back and forth.

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