by Asma Al Qanea PT

The No Good Dirty Rotten Terrible
Too-Heavy Badly Fitted School Bag

Let’s take a couple of minute to talk about bags! No not the pretty one that you saw in the mall the other day but the heavy, ill-fitted school bag that your child is possibly carrying every day.

Why evil, you might be wondering? Well, all the researchers that has studied the effect of school bags on your child’s back, posture, feet and gait came out with negative results!

Of course not every single school bag is evil.  We are only talking about those heavy bags that weigh more than 10% of your child’s body weight – the recommended weight for a school bag – which, unfortunately, includes most of the school bags our children are carrying.  Literature shows that 40% to 70% of children in developed countries are carrying bags weighing more than 10% of their body weight.  And those bags which are not properly sized/fitted to the child and worn correctly.

The effect of these heavy bags, whether were worn with one or two straps, is huge.  Studies show that carrying heavy bags can lead to changes in body posture.  Your little ones entire musculoskeletal system will react to compensate for the increase in postural stress from a heavy or poorly fitting bag, which in turn will lead to forward head posture, headaches, fatigue, neck, middle, and lower spine pain. Not only this, but spinal deformities have been observed in a number of studies, flattening of the physiological curvature of the spine which increases the forces affecting the spine and decreases the spine’s biomechanical endurance which can lead to degenerative disc disorders and pain during adulthood.  In addition, flattening of the thoracic spine can increase your child’s risk of developing scoliosis.

And it’s not just the spine! Carrying a heavy school bag, especially on one shoulder,  impacts your child’s gait – how their feet, ankles, knees, hips, and lower limb muscles in general move, leading to cartilage degeneration, soft tissue degeneration, ligament injuries, osteoarthritis and pain in the future. A heavy bag can lead to tightness of the knee flexors and extensors, which can give your child pain when running or jumping. Carrying a bag on one shoulder can also alter the knee angle which will affect the weight distribution and loading pattern and can lead to cartilage degeneration with time. It can also cause tightening of the hip flexor muscles leading to an increase in the lumbar curve and ultimately low back pain.

In the end, a heavy school bag will impact your child’s health significantly, so preventative measures must be taken to make sure that your child grows to a healthy adult.

You’re welcome to bring your child in to InTouch so that one of our doctors or therapists can help you properly fit your childs backpack.  Either way, next time your child goes to school, we recommend you consider these points:

  1. Weight of the school bag: no more than 10% of your child’s body weight.
  2. Two straps, wide and padded: Thin straps can cut into the shoulders, making the bag uncomfortable for your child.
  3. Sternum (chest) belt: will hold the shoulder straps in place.
  4. Waist belt: helps distribute the load across the hips, adds extra stability and decreases the stress on the shoulders and neck.
  5. Backpack should fit the torso length: The bag should rest between your child’s lower neck and the top of their pelvis.
  6. Padded and ventilated backrest: This will make carrying the bag more comfortable.
  7. Compartments instead of a single top loading opening: they help in organizing the contents and holding the items close against your child’s torso.
  8. Compression straps: Use the compression straps to keep the load close and compact against the back.

Even better…..

Lobby your child’s school to transition to ROLLING BAGS or HYBRID ROLLING BackPacks for all students.
Prevention is always better than cure, especially when it comes to children’s health.

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