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Back Pain in Children: Lighten the Backpack Load

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According to the Better Health Channel, it's common for children to suffer from back pain, especially as they go through adolescence. One of the factors of this can be the bags that children carry to and from school. To avoid long-term back, shoulder and neck problems that may need medical intervention or physio, parents should take steps to make sure that their children aren't carrying too much of a load in their school backpacks.

How Much Should Children Carry?

The Better Health Channel recommends that kids carry no more than 10% of their body weight in their backpacks. If they carry a lot more weight, they risk putting pressure on their spines and may adjust their posture unnaturally to compensate for the weight they are carrying. This may give them pain in their shoulders, neck or back; it may also make it more likely that they'll suffer from back pain in the future.

Tip: If your child's school gives them a lot of books to carry, try to encourage your child to store stuff in school lockers or at home, only carrying what they need to and from school. If your child's school doesn't have lockers, and you feel that it expects its pupils to carry too many books and pieces of equipment, talk to the school about possible solutions. For example, it may be willing to put in lockers or to find other ways to minimise the load.

Weight Distribution Matters

Even if children don't carry too much weight in a backpack for their size, they may also experience problems if the contents of the bag are not organised in the right way. For example, you should put the heaviest items in a backpack against the back. If you put them at the front of the bag, the bag makes the child lean forward to compensate for the drag, possibly affecting posture. It's also a good idea to split contents across all the backpack's sections or compartments to help spread weight evenly when it is carried.

Backpack Tips

  • Buy a backpack that is just big enough to hold everything your child needs to carry. Don't buy one that is too big.
  • Make sure that the backpack has adjustable straps and plenty of padding. It may be a good idea to choose a backpack that is approved by a medical authority such as the Australian Physiotherapy Association.
  • Talk to your child about how to wear the backpack. Children should use both straps rather than carry packs on one shoulder, and the bag should fit snugly to the back.
  • If your child doesn't want to listen to your advice about how to use a backpack or shows signs of bad posture or pain, you might want to consider making an appointment with your local physiotherapist. Children may listen to other people more readily than they do their parents, and the physiotherapist will be able to assess your child's posture and identify any areas of concern.