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School kids with heavy backpacks ‘risking spinal damage’

04 Jul 2013
School kids with heavy backpacks ‘risking spinal damage’ article image

School children carrying over laden and ill-fitting backpacks face potential spinal damage, the Chiropractors' Association of Australia has warned.  

According to the CAA, 90 per cent of school children have bad posture when carrying their bags and could experience spinal damage as a result.  

And 75 per cent of children are not using their school backpack’s ergonomic features that could prevent such damage.  

Many school children exacerbate the problem by wearing backpacks too low on their backs (33 per cent) or slinging them over one shoulder (20 per cent).  

The alarming findings stem from a CAA observational study conducted by chiropractors on high-traffic school commute routes in late 2011.  

“These results are a major concern for the health of our schoolchildren,” said CAA spokesperson, Dr Billy Chow.  

“Despite the increased use of technology in schools to assist learning, schoolchildren are still overloading their backpacks with textbooks, sports and other gear or simply not wearing them in the correct way, Dr Chow said.  

“Putting too much stress on a child’s back at such an important stage of growth and development will result in serious spinal problems immediately and later on in life.”  

Degeneration of bones and joints  

Some of the problems caused by bad posture at an early age include reduced mobility, possible early degeneration of bones and joints, increased vulnerability to injuries and unhealthy pressures on a child’s nervous system.  

To avoid “back to school backache”, the CAA recommends:

Backpacks should ideally be no heavier than 10 per cent of a student’s weight when packed.

  • Make sure the backpack is sturdy and appropriately sized – no wider than the student’s chest.
  • Choose a backpack with broad, padded shoulder straps.
  • Use both shoulder straps – never sling the pack over one shoulder.
  • Use waist straps attached – they are there for a good reason.
  • Don’t wear the backpack any lower than the hollow of the lower back.
  • Don’t overload the backpack – use school lockers and plan homework well in advance.
  • Place all heavy items at the base of the pack, close to the spine, for a better distribution of the weight  

“Going back to school should not mean putting your back out,” Dr Billy Chow said. “What these results show is that while nearly all schoolchildren have bad posture while carrying backpacks, there is a lack of knowledge about how to identify what is bad posture, and therefore how to improve it.  

“By raising awareness among parents, teachers and the public about the importance of good posture for schoolchildren, we can help reduce the cases of spinal injuries we see now and in the future.”  

The Chiropractors’ Association of Australia (National) Limited (CAA) is the peak body representing chiropractors.

CAA chiropractor members can provide advice to help young spines better manage a heavy backpack load.

They can also assess and fit backpacks to suit the child’s current level of development.

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