Over the next fortnight the kids will be back in uniform and back at school. This also means that they will be back carry a school bag. School bags have come under much scrutiny over the last few years as it was thought that they are the source of adolescent back pain. A British systematic review published mid way through last year might just put this to rest.

This review found that ‘the characteristics of a backpack doesn’t cause back pain’ alone. That is; that carrying a heavy bag doesn’t necessarily mean that your child will suffer from back pain now or later in life. However, for someone that does suffer from back pain, carrying a heavy bag or over one shoulder may make their symptoms worse. There are almost always multiple contributing factors.

So where does that leave us now? I tend to say let common sense prevail.

The current guidelines as to how much weight should be carried is 5-20% of a person’s body weight. This is still reasonable and makes sense, especially if your child is prone to a sore back. Having a lighter weight should be less aggravating for them.

If you notice that your child’s posture dramatically changes when they wear their bag, this is an indication to change or re-fit their bag and reduce how much they put in it. For example, if you notice that they are walking different or labouring with the weight, their head noticeably leans forward or they start to slump. Another indication may be that they no longer want to ride or walk to school because of their bag. A reduction in exercise, including incidental exercise, can increase the risk of back pain, so being pro-active with this is important.

Ensure they wear their bag correctly. Double strapping backpacks is cool! This allows the weight of the pack to be distributed over your child’s spine correctly. Also ensure that the shoulder straps are tight enough so the bag sits on their back, not over their bottom. Using the additional chest and lumbar/hip straps is also cool. This too helps to make sure the weight of the bag is carried correctly.

If your child is prone to back pain or you are concerned about their posture or their bag, bring them into the clinic for a postural assessment. If you want to have a read of the review find the link here. Please do not hesitate to contact me at christine@torquaysmc.com.au if you have any questions.

Christine Fraser

Osteopath