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.