Have you ever considered what an overloaded school bag could be doing to the delicate spine and back of your child? Are you aware that some of the long term consequence of this behavior is irreversible damage and back pain now and in adulthood?
Bearing the burden of a heavy school bag is one of the upsetting things most children go through every day. The sad thing is that most of them do not complain and most parents do not notice. The burden gets worse when the child constantly keeps the bag down and then carries it up again. According to experts this could cause more problem than when it is just carried on the back.
A school bag contains stationary, books (text and note books), poster and water colors, crayon, gums, cello tape and scissors. As if that is not enough, lunch box and water bottles are jammed into the already over laden bag. The result is a school bag that is sometimes heavier than the child.
A report in Archives of Disease in Childhood said excessively loaded backpack was linked to higher level of back pain in children. The research took place at a Hospital in Burela and also at the university Hospital Son Dureta in Palma
What is the correct bag weight?
Experts now suggest that children should not carry more than 10% of their body weight in school bags and that anything more than 15% can be damaging.
What this means is that if your child weight is 30kg, his school bag should not weigh more than 3kg. Anything that is more than 4.5kg is deemed damaging.
This table explains more
Childs weight Recommended bag weight
20kg 2 – 3kg bag weight
30kg 3 – 4kg bag weight
40kg 4 – 5kg bag weight
50kg 5 – 6kg bag weight
What is the correct posture when carrying a school bag?
Stand with your shoulders back when your school bag is on your back and whenever you are standing.
Keep a neutral spine, not a hunched spine
When walking, land with your heel first and look straight ahead
What are the effects of a heavy school bag?
Most of the bad effects of heavy school bags are felt immediately by children. The bad effects include:
- Back Pain
A dull or throbbing pain on the shoulder, back and on the neck are two of the immediate effects of heavy school bags.
This may be followed by a feeling of weakness of the hand.
- A hunched back
This could be caused by damage to the delicate spine of growing children by carrying heavy weights on their back on a daily basis.
Dr Patel explains in http://www.healthsite.com that ‘To carry a heavy bag, the child has to lean forward. This leads to developing a bad posture. The spine is a stack of bones called the vertebral column. These bones are separated by a cartilage called the inter-vertebral disk which is held upright by the muscles and ligaments around it. The excess weight puts undue stress on the muscles, ligaments and disk thus damaging them. The alignment of the column is also disturbed causing it to bend, mostly forward or sideways.’
- Stunted growth
A child’s growth could be damaged and stunted by heavy school bags. Their bones are still growing and do not need loads that might be too much for it.
Tips for parents
Check your child’s school bag regularly. There are certain things your young child cannot do alone. Packing only essentials in the bag is one of them. When you take time and go through their bags you may be shocked to discover that there are old books and other things that belong to the trash in their bag. This can make your child uncomfortable.
1 Check her posture
Take a moment from the mad dash outside for school run in the morning to check your child’s posture. Is your child standing tall or is she slouching or leaning forward? If she is leaning forward that is an indication that the bag is too heavy for her. Do take 1 minute from the time you do not have and sort her bag out. You can also check if your child finds it difficult to get the school bag off or on.
2 Is that big Dictionary necessary? Really
Are all the things in your child’s bag necessary? There are smaller and lighter versions of a dictionary. Does your her school have a time table? If they do, then, before you go to bed each day, make sure to put only the necessary things in her bag. Make sure her completed homework that is due for submission goes in first.
3 Ergonomics before beauty, please!
When shopping for school bags, beauty and color should not be the deciding factor. Look for a bag that has a wide and firm base. Make sure that the bag has two shoulder straps that are padded.
One shoulder strap may look beautiful but we are talking about your child’s back health here. And one shoulder strap does not help in that matter. The reason for this is that one shoulder strap puts pressure on one side of the body and tilts the spine.
Check that the bag becomes narrower as it goes upward.
4 Take your child when shopping for schoolbags
Always take your child with you when buying school bag. This may be inconveniencing but needful. This is so you can make sure that the bag stops at his hip line. Economizing when it comes to school bag may seem wise but it is not the best. This is not the time to buy an over – sized bag that reaches your her buttocks or calf because you want her to grow with it.
5 Leave some of her stuff in school
Leave some of her stuff in the school. You can get another bag and store her things. She can leave that in the school and come back with the other bag with the lighter weight.
6 Heavier books at the back of her bag
When packing her bag, make sure that the heavier books goes right inside the bag (towards her spine). If you pack her heavier books outward it will pull her spine back and may cause injury to her.
7 Tighten those straps
The straps you see on the bags are not for beauty. They are meant to be strapped to her chest and on her tummy. Make sure that your her bag does not hang loosely at her back as this will pull her backwards. It should fit snugly at her back to prevent muscle strain. Tighten them to bring the bag closer to her.
What is the role of schools in all this?
Schools should try and provide desk space for children to store their books. Most Schools just provide a desk for writing and nothing more. Having a large population may be your aim but are their enough desk space to accommodate the books and other belongings of students to lighten their bag loads? Provide desk space so that students are not forced to go about with bags loaded to the top and spilling over.
My reason for recommending bags with 2 shoulder straps
When you carry a heavy weight on one shoulder there is a tendency for you to lean towards one side so that you can offset the weight. This might lead to one side of your body curving.
Go and check your child’s school bag and sort it out now!
Now that your child’s school bag is sorted out and good to go, make sure that he/she gets regular exercise and healthy nutrition to protect them from childhood obesity.