Back pain in children linked to the weight of their school bag.

By Jan Olsen DC

When carrying something it is generally considered better to distribute the weight evenly and holding it as close to your body as possible. This is why a backpack or a rucksack often is recommended as a school bag. However, for it to be of benefit it needs to be worn over both shoulders and, when packed, the weight of the bag should not exceed 10% of the child’s weight.

A recent Spanish study* found that out among a group of 1400 12-17 year olds a staggering 61.4% carried a rucksack that exceeded the recommended 1:10 weight ratio. Those children carrying the heavier loads were 50% more likely to suffer back pain. Girls were more prone to suffering than boys. Although not statistically significant the likelihood of back pathology was also significantly higher.

As parents we are rarely popular when telling our children what to do, especially when what you suggest is not ‘cool’ or fashionable – and the fashion of the school bag casually slung over one shoulder has been around for a while. It can be equally difficult to convince your children to organise their school bag thereby minimising its weight by only carrying the books required for each day. As a parent I know the excuses are endless and that the argument may not feel worthwhile. However, often back pain arising in adulthood may have been preventable had precautions been taken during childhood and the teenage years.

I, sort of, feel fortunate that I experienced my first bout of debilitating back pain when I was only 11 years old. No football, tennis, table tennis or PE for three months. However, it meant that I had chiropractic treatment to sort out my problem and I needed little convincing that some of my poor habits had to change. I have been lucky to have had very few problems with my back since then but not everyone is so fortunate. Some people become lifelong sufferers from an early age – and it may have been prevented by taking a few simple steps. So, please try and convince you son or daughter to adopt good habits when it comes to school bags, and sitting at the desk, by the computer, while watching the TV or playing on the games console.

Oh, of course – the advice is fully applicable to parents as well!

*Reference: Arch Dis Child doi:10.1136/archdischild-2011-301253

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