How to choose and wear a school backpack

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Shoes are polished, lunches packed and books are bought… but have you spared a thought for how school might be affecting your child’s spine and health?

A survey conducted by the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia in 2011 revealed that 90% of school children had bad posture while carrying their schoolbag and 75% are not using the ergonomic features of their schoolbag. Recent research suggests that children suffer back pain at a similar rate to adults and children who suffer with spinal pain are more likely to become adults who suffer with spinal pain.

There are a few steps we can take as parents to help kids with choosing and packing a backpack to lessen the pressure on developing spines:

What to look for when choosing a backpack

  • The correct size. The width should be shoulder width or narrower. The length should be shoulder height to waist long or shorter.
  • Compartmentalised. This stops books floating around and shifting large weights with movement.
  • Padded adjustable shoulder straps. Should be firm but comfortable.
  • Adjustable waist strap. Should be firm but comfortable.

How to wear a backpack correctly

  • Backpack should weigh less than 10% of bodyweight.
  • Pack heaviest items at back and bottom.
  • Tighten shoulder straps so they are firm but comfortable.
  • Adjust waist strap firmly.
  • Ask your chiropractor to check if your child is wearing their backpack correctly.
  • Have your child’s spine checked regularly by your chiropractor to correct any misalignments from incorrect posture or ergonomics.

It’s an unfortunate fact that most school bags are just too heavy. I remember carrying a 24kg bag to school and back in year 12 and I certainly wasn’t 240kg in weight! Sadly in 20+ years, very little has changed regarding the weight that school children are expected to carry each day.

What can we do about it?

  • Put pressure on the textbook publishers to provide textbooks as ebooks. The technology is there, why aren’t they using it to help our children? Find the publishers names on the books and email them. Enough pressure from parents and schools can lead to change.
  • If your child suffers with recurrent back pain or scoliosis, consider having two copies of their heavier books, one for school and one for home. If your child is in pain, don’t ignore it. Children DO get spinal stress fractures from repeatedly carrying heavy bags. See your chiropractor or GP.
  • Is your schools’ backpack ergonomically sound? If it doesn’t fit the description above and the school bag is part of the uniform, put pressure on your school to change to a more ergonomic design. I am more than happy to speak to any staff about designs and brands that are kinder on growing spines.  Just ask your school to contact me at Turramurra Chiropractic Centre on (02) 9440 8003 or email me at loretta@turrachiro.com.au

For a free ‘How to wear a backpack’ postcard to stick on the fridge, just drop by the clinic at Turramurra Chiropractic Centre ( 3 /1307 Pacific Hwy, Turramurra).

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