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October 5, 2017
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Burdensome bookbags and backs

The issue of heavy school bags is not new. At the TUCO/Sunshine Snacks National Junior Calypso Monarch 2007 a then ten-year-old Teneisha Weeks took home the title with her calypso ‘School Bag Dilemma’. Source: trinisoca.com

It’s an everyday reality seeing schoolchildren buckling from the weight of school bags too heavy for their body frames. While many trudge to and from school bearing the burden, several research studies state that continued use can result in a number of health problems including back pain, nerve damage, the unnatural compression of the spine and irreversible back deformities.

Writer KAELANNE JORDAN sought the opinion of Rupert Indar, Consultant Orthopaedic and Spinal Surgeon on whether heavy and improperly used schoolbags are the culprit of back-related injuries, what exactly can happen to a child’s body from all that extra weight on their backs and what parents/guardians can do about it.

  1. While studies have linked heavy school bagsto back problems, are heavy school bagsreally injuring children’s backs? 

Yes, children do suffer with lower back pain, but this could be as a result of growth and sometimes growth spurts. As a result, muscles are not keeping up proportionately with their strength to support this growth. Children who have abnormalities or developmental problems in the spine will present later on, but this may be coincidental when they carry heavy book bags.

  1. How prevalent is back pain among schoolchildren, especially due to heavy school bags?

I don’t know how prevalent this is, but adolescent lower back pain is quite common.

  1. What are some long-term effects of carrying heavy backpacks?

Long-term effects of carrying heavy items are that it may cause excessive strain to the neck, back and shoulders. However, the strain can be treated with rest and if you stop the precipitated cause.

  1. Are heavy schoolbags the sole contributor of back pain? If not, kindly include other source/s.

Schoolbags are not the sole contributor of back pain. This may be also due to poor posture or imbalance in bags on one shoulder compared to the other.

  1. How heavy should a schoolbag be for a child?

I believe that the weight of the bag should be consistent with the child’s age and body strength. They should have schoolbags which are like rucksacks which are balanced and the majority of the weight is taken on the shoulders going through the spine.

  1. What are some warning signs that a bagis too heavy?

Pain, change in posture (bending forward) to compensate for the force of the bag on the back and difficulty to put on or take off backpack.

  1. What features should parents take into consideration when selecting school bags?

Size of backpack, the weight of the bag, and straps that are padded and adjustable.

  1. It is said that a lot of the responsibility for packing lightly- and safely- rests with children. What can they do to reduce the injuries from book bags?

The weight of the bag should be checked before being placed on the shoulder, as well as carrying it like a rucksack with straps over both shoulders.

  1. What are some exercises/remedies that children can do to alleviate back pain?

Yoga, pilates or any core strengthening activities.

  1. What are the signs/symptoms that usually indicate that one should seek immediate medical attention for back-related issues?

Lower-back pain not helped by rest or pain killers, worsens on activity and pain particularly worse at night.





 

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