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.
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.
I don’t know how prevalent this is, but adolescent lower back pain is quite common.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Size of backpack, the weight of the bag, and straps that are padded and adjustable.
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.
Yoga, pilates or any core strengthening activities.
Lower-back pain not helped by rest or pain killers, worsens on activity and pain particularly worse at night.