Watch those heavy backpacks!
Many parents worry about the ever increasing weight of their child’s school bag, and I’m sure you worry as well. With textbooks, tablets or laptops, stationary, food and sporting clothes, they really are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. A heavy backpack is certainly a cause for concern when it comes to the health and alignment of the spine. This daily load and associated strain may contribute to future posture problems that can potentially last for years.
At Chirolife, many parents ask us “is carrying a heavy backpack bad for my child’s spine”?
To address this issue, we wrote this article to raise awareness of possible impacts associated with heavy backpacks on the health of your child’s spine. Additionally, we provide you with several tips to ‘lessen the load’ and some interesting research carried out on this very concern. Please read on, or feel free to contact Chirolife today for a chiropractic consultation and posture check on (03) 9458 3255.
How Heavy Should a Child Backpack Be?
Follow this ‘rule of thumb’ for the weight of schoolbags. This information is referenced to the Chiropractor’s Association of Australia.
“The maximum weight of a fully packed bag should be equivalent to 10% of the student’s total body weight”
So if your child weighs 50 kg the maximum weight of their packed bag should be 5kg. Go and weigh their bag now to see how heavy it is.
Study – Backpack use Among Australian School Children
The Chiropractors’ Association of Australia1 conducted an in-field observational study on backpack use among Australian school children. The study revealed:
“90 per cent of school children have bad posture when carrying their bags and could experience spinal damage as a result, while 75 per cent are not using their backpack’s ergonomic features which could prevent such damage”
As a chiropractor, I find these figures alarming. 90% of surveyed students have bad posture when carrying their bags.
Additionally, the study observed that students carried their bags the wrong way, and their bags weighed too much:
“On average, parent’s estimate junior school children are carrying the equivalent of 17 per cent of their body weight in their school bags which is almost double the maximum recommended weight”
Carrying heavy loads over a period of time may contribute to poor posture, injury and other spinal health concerns. If you’ve ever had OHS or heavy lifting training at work you’ll know the risks that come with these types of activities.
Should I be Worried About the Weight of My Child’s School Backpack?
A recent Australian study2 (“Perceived school bag load, duration of carriage, and method of transport to school are associated with spinal pain in adolescents: an observational study”) concluded that “neck pain is as common as back pain amongst adolescents. Perceived school bag load, duration of carriage and method of transport to school are associated with back and neck pain.”
The weight of your child’s school backpack should definitely be a consideration you give thought to. The range of health impacts associated with heavy lifting and repetitive load bearing activities may include:
- Strain and stress on the spine
- Postural shifts due to uneven weight distribution e.g. single shoulder strap bags
- Back pain and muscle tension
- Musculoskeletal aches and pains
- Biomechanical issues
Consider These backpack Safety Tips From the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia
- The maximum weight of a backpack should be equivalent to 10% of the student’s body weight
- Selecting the right sized bag.
- Choose a bag based on comfort over colour, fashion and trends
- Select bags with features such as waist straps and padded shoulder straps
- When packing the backpack, place the heaviest items on the bottom of the bag, and closest to the spine.
Take care with heavy backpacks. Remember, many spinal problems are preventable.
At Chirolife we help students and families address postural problems. Our approach is simple. We believe that health is among our most valuable possessions. Chiropractic care, and a program of chiropractic adjustments, commonly help musculoskeletal issues such as back pain, neck pain, headaches and sports injury.
- Chiropractors’ Association of Australia ‘Backpack use among Australian School Children’ Fact Sheet. Link.
- Clare Haselgrove, Leon Straker, Anne Smith, Peter O’Sullivan, Mark Perry, Nick Sloan 2011 ‘Perceived school bag load, duration of carriage, and method of transport to school are associated with spinal pain in adolescents: an observational study’ Australian Journal of Physiotherapy Volume 54, Issue 3, 2008, Pages 193–200. Link.