The children may have only just broken up for the summer holidays, but parents have already been subjected to “Back to School” advertising for several weeks.
As parents, we all know that, as our children grow, their school uniform, shoes and sports kit need to be replaced. If we
are lucky, this may only need doing at the start of each new school year when these items have either been outgrown or are well past their best. In addition to new uniform etc, children often require new stationery items, and also a new school bag to put things in. Whilst many junior schools have an official school bag, usually a hand-held book bag for the younger children, and a rucksack for the older children, once they get to senior school, although the school may recommend certain school bags, children often choose their bag according to the latest fashion trends, and not by what may be better for their backs.
In recent research carried out by the British Chiropractic Association, more than a third of parents reported that their child had suffered from lower back or neck pain before the age of 16. Experiencing back pain in childhood is associated with a four-fold increase in the likelihood of developing back pain as an adult. Although there are many possible causes for back and neck pain in children, a heavy school bag or one being carried inappropriately, may often be the cause.
Children are constantly growing, especially during their adolescent years, so it is important not to put unnecessary stress on their developing skeleton in order to limit problems later in life. Scientists have said that carrying up to 10% of their bodyweight should not cause any damage, but carrying 15% of their bodyweight could increase the risk of developing back problems as an adult. However, the charity Back Care found that many children regularly carry 20% of their bodyweight, and if you add in the weight of sports kit, musical instruments etc., some children have been found to be carrying up to 60% of their bodyweight. They also found that up to 4 million children each year carry a bag that is too heavy for them, potentially causing back, neck or shoulder pain.
Unfortunately, schools are often unable to lighten this load, as children regularly have to carry everything they need for the school day around with them, either because there aren’t enough lockers available to put their things in, or because the available lockers aren’t easily accessible during the school day.
The best type of school bag is probably a rucksack. It should always be worn on both shoulders, with the shoulder straps tightened up so that the bag sits close to the child’s back, distributing the weight more evenly. A rucksack should never be carried on only one shoulder as this will cause the child to lean to the opposite side, stressing the spine and muscles more on one side of the body than the other, and leading to muscle spasms and back pain.
The ideal rucksack should be lightweight with wide padded adjustable straps, a padded back, and ideally a waist or hip belt. Heavy items like books should be put in the rucksack first so they are closest to the body, reducing the strain on the spine. It should also have several pockets so that items can be distributed throughout the bag, which will also make it easier to find things. Children should be encouraged to only pack what they need for that day, and once a week the parent and child should go through the bag removing any unnecessary things.
If your child refuses to use a rucksack, they can use a messenger type bag worn diagonally across their body, but they should alternate which shoulder they carry it on throughout the day.
Should you require any further information, or are concerned about your child’s back, neck or shoulders, please contact Guildford Chiropractic Clinic to see if one of our chiropractors can help.