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Back to School Part 2 – Backpacks

22 January 2018 No Comment

In last weeks post I talked about the 3 most common causes of back pain in schoolkids. First on the list was a heavy backpack, which is defined as a backpack weighing more than 10% of the child’s body weight. Previous studies using MRI scans have shown that when the weight of the backpack gets much above this, the discs start to become compressed, and the spine starts to curve, probably because the children were trying to find a comfortable position. The danger here is that in addition to the compression, if they shift their weight to one side then that side takes a lot more of the load; over time this lop-sided compression will cause problems. Also, when asked how much pain the backpack caused, the children reported that the heavier the backpack, the more pain they felt.

The Australian Osteopathic Association just released their guidelines on how to select a backpack. Here is the summary:

What to look for in a backpack

There are so many different styles of school bags available to purchase, that it can become difficult to choose the right one. The style found to best suit children entering school and returning to primary school is an ergonomic backpack. Below are features that you should look for when purchasing a new bag:

  • Make sure the backpack is the right size – it should be no wider than the child’s chest and no higher than 3 cm above their shoulders – they should be able to look up to the ceiling without their head hitting the bag.
  • A moulded frame which conforms to your child’s back when adjusted correctly.
  • Two wide, adjustable shoulder straps with padding for extra comfort – Wearing a bag with only one shoulder strap curves the spine unnaturally, putting stress on the whole body.
  • An adjustable hip or sternum strap.
  • Separate compartments that allow packing ease.
  • One made from canvas or another light-weight material.

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