Studies show that many children carry backpacks heavily loaded with more than the recommended maximum weight. This is well known among Singaporean Parents, as their children are required to bring school books to and from school and tuition. A recent study has shown that children are also likely to experience neck and shoulder pain, as well as the commonly-reported back pain.
However, pain does not always show up immediately. Many children develop other signs and symptoms before pain sets in. In practice, I hear complaints of poor posture, difficulty finding a comfortable sitting or sleeping position, difficulty concentrating, stiffness, headaches, and general non-specific unease or discomfort.
So I would like to issue a warning to parents this January – check the weight and fitting of your child’s bag before they go back to school to avoid the risk of long term spinal damage.
Children should not carry loads of more than 10 per cent of their own body weight to maintain normal postural alignment and the backpack should be no wider than their chest. Lifting a bag that is too heavy causes immediate strain on the spine and the longer a child carries the load, the more severe the damage.
I strongly suggest that students make use of school lockers, observe timetables and plan homework well in advance to reduce the need to carry large numbers of books in the one journey.
The ideal backpack should have broad, adjustable shoulder straps that distribute weight evenly across the shoulders. They should also feature waist straps (like you can find on trekking packs) that distribute weight evenly across the hips and hold the backpack firmly to the spine.
Having these features are fantastic, though I would urge parents to remind their children that how they use the backpack and features is more important. To gain maximum benefit from these features, your children must use both straps, and keep the straps tight enough that the backpack stays on the back and above the hips.
When packing your school bag, all heavy items, including text books, tablets or laptops, should be packed at the bottom of the backpack and as close to the spine as possible.
There are numerous backpacks that Dr Gary Tho recommends including the Ergobag, Satch, McNeil and the MoonRock Bag, the latest lightweight ergonomic school bag for kids. Connect with him on email, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn for recommendations and any current promotions on kids ergonomic bags, bedding and chairs, desks and the like.
10 TIPS TO AVOID THE BACK-TO-SCHOOL BACKACHE
- Backpacks should be no heavier than 10 per cent of the child’s body weight when packed
- Make sure the backpack is sturdy and appropriately sized - no wider than the child’s chest
- Put the backpack’s comfort and fit at the top of the priority list rather than good looks
- Choose a pack with broad, padded shoulder straps
- Use both shoulder straps – never sling the pack over one shoulder
- Use the waist straps attached – they’re there for a very good reason!
- Don’t wear the backpack any lower than the hollow of the lower back
- Don’t overload the backpack – use school lockers & plan homework well in advance
- Place all heavy items at the base of the pack and close to the spine
- Invite Dr Gary Tho to speak at your school for further helpful tips, hands-on assessments and solutions
Dr Gary Tho is the owner of Chiropractic Works, a Family Sports and Wellness clinic in Orchard Road, Singapore. He specialises in pain relief and preventative care and believes quality life is essential for happiness, success and peak performance. For more information and advice, phone Dr Gary Tho on +65 6733 4439.