Today, the average weight carried in our children’s backpacks is understood to be a staggering 30-40% of their own body weight. Repetitive loading on the spine is well understood to be a prominent risk factor in the development of spinal pain and considering today’s increasing incidence of back pain and scoliosis in children and adolescents, such facts unfortunately come as no surprise.

A recent CAA (Chiropractors Association of Australia) survey of more than 1,000 Australian school children revealed that one in three suffer significant back or neck pain, with more than half citing heavy school bags as the direct cause. Additionally, almost half the children surveyed carried school bags weighing significantly greater than the recommended 10% of their body weight for up to 45 minutes each day. (1)

An additional study demonstrated the exact loads placed on the spine of a child whilst carrying a backpack. Their results concluded that walking with a backpack load of 15% and 30% of the child’s body weight resulted in an increase in compressive loads occurring through the lumbo-sacral spine by 26.7% and 64% respectively when compared to walking without the added load of a backpack. (2)

The years throughout which our children carry such loads is unfortunately paralleled by their peak periods of rapid growth; a stage during which their spines are particularly sensitive to external stressors.  When the weight of the backpack is greater than the spine’s capacity to withstand such compressive loads, postural alterations and musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction can occur, proving detrimental to the health of their spine as they age.

Special care is therefore required to avoid such patterns of compensation in order to ensure no long-standing damage is caused to our children’s spines. For example:

  • Recommended loads should not exceed 10% of the child’s body weight.
  • Pack items carefully by placing heavy items closest to the child’s back and ensure they can’t freely move around.
  • Educate your child on how to wear their backpack correctly. They should be positioned high on the back with straps worn over both shoulders. This will safely distribute the weight of the bag evenly.
  • Alternatively, suggest the use of a locker to store unneeded items.

For more information about selecting the right backpack for your child this new school year or concerns regarding your child’s posture, simply ask any of the practitioners at Shirley Rd Chiropractic (Crows Nest).