Returning to school is a transition that we need various forms of support with! However, there is one thing that is often overlooked- our child’s backpack. With their bodies still developing, combined with having an extended break without having to carry items in their school bag, this will easily be a trigger for various issues when heading back to school. This is something that can be addressed quite easily so that you can modify your current bag as well as pack and show your child how to pack their bag correctly to help improve their backpack posture. If it is time to purchase a new backpack, this will help you know what to look for.
What are common issues that can arise from poor backpack wearing and selection?
Why is this topic so important? If this is not addressed, it may be a contributing factor to creating back pain for your child but it is easily a trigger that can be addressed and resolved quickly! The best way to approach this is to think of ideal posture for a child, when a heavy and poorly packed bag is added to this equation, the changes of their posture will start to present as:
Neck pain and headaches.
Upper back and shoulder pain.
Lower back pain.
Hip and knee pain secondary to lower back pain.
Common mistakes that are made with backpacks
There are quite a few mistakes that are made when wearing backpacks that can be easily fixed! Let’s think of this as “backpack alignment”. When we look at the bag from behind we want to make sure that the bag is level. Is one shoulder strap tighter than the other? If so, this will tilt the bag and put more strain on one side rather than the other. Where is the bag sitting on your child? Is the backpack sitting higher up so that the base of the bag is sitting around their waist (this is ideal) or is it sitting too low and resting on the top of their bottom? If the bag is sitting too low this will increase pressure along their spine and create back problems. Now let’s think about where the bag sits from a side view! Is the back of the bag as close to your child’s spine as possible (this is what we want) or is there a lot of space and a gap? Are the heaviest things inside the bag placed closer to your child’s bag or are they at the front pulling them backwards? If the bag has side straps are they being used to keep the bag nice and snug to your child back or are they unclipped and making the back as large as possible? Finally, look at the bottom of the bag and make sure the base is not too low and touching the top of their bottom.
What is an example of a good backpack and what are the features?
Here is an example of a bag that has all the features to make the transition back to school as easy as possible.
You can find a range of school bags that are endorsed by either the Australian Chiropractor’s Association or the Australian Physiotherapy Association here.
What are some easy tips?
Pack the heaviest items towards the back of the bag, this will help to keep your child’s spine as neutral as possible. If the heavier items are at the front of the bag this will pull their torso backwards, put strain on the shoulder straps as well as bringing their forward to counter-balance the weight of the bag. This will then predispose your child to shoulder, upper back, neck pain and headaches.
Try to keep the bag as light as possible. The current guidelines range between 6-10% of your child’s body weight.
Make sure both shoulder straps are worn, that way the weight can be evenly distributed along the shoulders. Chest and waist straps are great to help put more pressure on the hips and pelvis to distribute the weight!
Make sure that the bag fits your child’s current size. A backpack should not be something that your child “grows into” rather we need to select a bag for their current size.
Some food for thought
The bag you select for your child is going to have a long term impact on their spinal health. We now know that incorrectly fitted and heavy bags have a negative impact on spinal health. However, a correct bag will not substitute making nutritious food choices, keeping your child active and addressing inevitable screen time duration. Only 1 in 6 children last year were getting enough exercise outside of school with only 2% of teenagers aged from 13-17 getting the recommended daily exercise a week so parents have such an important role with long term health outcomes for their children. Keep bag packing as simple as possible, only pack what is needed and keep it as light as possible.
If you are unsure if your bag is fitted correctly for your child, Dr Amy Norman will be able to check for you at no charge, Please call the clinic on 0407 992 119 and let the team know you would like a backpack assessment.