When it comes to carrying a school bag, what is trendy, cool and hip, often dictates the style of bag a child or young person will carry! Naturally, some sort of bag is necessary in order for children to transport text books etc, to and fro, throughout the school day. However, are we aware of the damage being done to the spines of these young people in so doing? Something as simple as the way a child carries their school bag and other equipment can have quite dramatic repercussions in later life.
THE EVIDENCE. Studies have shown that more than a third of pupils aged between 11 and 12 are carrying school bags weighing more than 30% of their own body weight, at least once a week, some, as much as 16.3kg, which is nearly half their body weight! As a result, 44% of children reported neck pain, 58% shoulder pain, 35% upper back pain and 35% were experiencing twinges in their lower back. The ‘British Chiropractic Association’ conducted a study which found that almost a third of British children experience back problems before the age of 8 years-IMAGINE! The suggested causes were unnecessarily heavy school bags, and a lifestyle lacking in regular exercise.
WHAT TO DO. Interestingly, a landmark study conducted a few years ago, at ‘Michigan University,’ into the rising trend of back pain in young people, concluded, weight gain and inactivity was the main cause. However, most experts concede this cannot be the only reason. Other factors must come into play; one of the culprits was – carrying heavy school bags. Another study by the British Chiropractic Association declared that, 61% of children do not have school lockers. This would imply that by the time a child has packed their PE kit, textbooks, packed-lunch and more, the weight of their bag becomes close to 40lb (18kg). This to be then carried around all day! Tim Hutchful from the British Chiropractic Association likens this to a grown man strapping a microwave oven full of food to his back for a whole day!
Chiropractors continually stress the importance of, ‘back friendly’ bags. We advise looking for a bag with two wide, padded straps and a waist belt, this will distribute the weight evenly between the back, shoulders and pelvis, helping to reduce pressure on these areas and underneath the arms. Keep the load between 10 and 15 % of the child’s own weight and pack the heaviest items first and closest to the spine. Modern, plastic, school furniture is another cause for concern. Old fashioned they may be, but wooden, sloping desks, are much kinder to backs. If your child spends several hours at the home computer, do ensure they have a good, adjustable chair that fully supports the lower and upper back. It is important for children, indeed for us all, to take a break from sitting too long at desks, computers or work-stations. It is easy to slouch or hunch-over a desk so take time-out to stretch, move about and generally have a break. With recent statistics showing that children between the ages of 8 and 18 are spending on average, 44½ hours per week in front of a computer screen, the long term consequences of not looking after our young skeletons could be leading to dire consequences.
TO SUMMARISE: As you can see, something as simple as carrying a weighty, school bag incorrectly, can have dramatic consequences. If you have any concerns, do give the practice a call and please take advantage of our FREE PAIN ASSESMENT. We also offer interactive educational talks to schools, teachers, children and /or parents, totally free of charge.
For more information or to have your child’s posture assessed, call Creative Chiropractic on (01263) 715522 and ask for a ‘free pain & posture assessment’. Alternately, this voucher can be downloaded of our website which is: – http://www.creativechiropractic.co.uk.
Michael I’Anson Doctor of Chiropractic