As we return to the school year, focus is on school uniforms and school books. However the school backpack also requires some attention as it can contribute significantly to the development of shoulder and back pain in children.

APA Physiotherapist Kirsty Buhlert-Smith states that approximately 70 percent of Australian school children may suffer back pain from school bags. You only have to glance sideways when passing a school area to see why – different types of bags, slung over one shoulder, hanging too low, imbalanced with weight – the list goes on. The use of ipads and computer devices at schools was supposed to reduce the weight of carrying text books home every day – however those of us with kids will know that their bags are often ridiculously heavy – way heavier than the good old days!

back-to-school-kids-wearing-backpacks-pic-getty-966574824A brief check of your child’s bag, and some quick adjustments and advice, may help avoid some of the unnecessary back pain that we see, and even help prevent a longer term chronic back condition in the future!

As Kirsty states: “Nine out of 10 young Australians are sitting too much and not moving enough and with a new school year about to start, an easy way for children to increase their exercise is to walk or ride to school. However, it’s important that when children walk or ride to school that they have the correct school bag to minimise their risk of injury from backpacks.”

To protect children from backpack injuries, the general recommendations are:

* The backpack  weighs less than 10 per cent of your child’s body weight

* The backpack must fit your child. Don’t buy a big pack to ‘grow’ into – it should be no wider than your child’s chest

* Your child should wear the load close to their spine – pack the heaviest items nearest to your child’s back and have separate backpack compartments for load distribution

* Your child should wear both straps at all times  – wide shoulder straps that are comfortable and sit well on the shoulder

* Waist and chest straps help transfer some of the load to your child’s hips and pelvis

* A padded back-support allows the pack to fit ‘snugly’ to your child’s back

* Ensure your child is carrying only what they need for that day. To decrease the load, your child should have separate subject folders so they only carry what they need for homework

Check with your SSPC Physiotherapist if in doubt regarding back pack fitting and suitability for your child.