As you get ready to send your children back to school this January, John Petrozzi, a chiropractor in Leichhardt, would like to provide you with some important tips on how your child can correctly carry their backpack and prevent long term spinal damage.
An in-field observational study conducted by the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia (CAA) of more than 340 school children on high-traffic school commute routes in late 2011, revealed 90% of school children have bad posture when carrying their bags which could result in spinal damage, while 75% are not using their backpack’s ergonomic features to prevent such damage.
“Heavy weight carried in backpacks can cause muscle strain, irritation, negative postural changes and injury, which can lead to adult back pain and spinal disorders, particularly after carrying a heavily loaded backpack for twelve years or more of schooling,” says Petrozzi. “Many of the current bags children use may be fashionable, but unless they allow for even distribution across the back, they can cause tremendous discomfort.”
Findings published in the Australian Spine journal stated the weight of the average backpack is often heavier, proportionally, than the legal load-bearing limit for adults. Another international study revealed daily backpack carrying is a frequent cause of discomfort and back pain for school children. School backpacks were felt to be heavy by 79.1% of children, to cause fatigue by 65.7%, and to cause back pain by 46.1%.
School can be a challenging time for children, so ensuring they are as comfortable as possible is important for their physical and mental development.
Tips for carrying heavy backpacks:
- Backpacks should be ideally no heavier than 10% of a student’s weight when packed.
- Make sure the backpack is sturdy and appropriately sized – no wider than the student’s chest
- Put comfort and fit at the top of the priority list, rather than good looks
- 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
The Chiropractors’ Association of Australia (CAA) together with Spartan School Supplies and Macquarie University (NSW), joined forces to research and develop the ‘Chiropak’. This durable, functional and comfortable backpack is proven to reduce the incidence and severity of neck and back pain associated with the carriage of heavy loads. Find out more about the Spartan Chiropak on their website.
For a posture assessment, advice on how to maintain a healthy spine or to make an appointment, contact John Petrozzi at Petrozzi Wellness Centre in Sydney’s inner west on 9518 0096.
John is a member of the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia.