Heavy School Bags: Don’t Weigh Your Children Down!

With children heading back to school next week, we think that it’s very important to highlight the impact that a school bag can have on a child’s body when used incorrectly. Overloaded or incorrectly worn school bags can unfortunately play a major role in a lot of neck, back pain and shoulder pain among children.

I definitely remember when I was younger and hated having to go to my locker to swap books in and out throughout the day so I chose the simplest solution, to always carry every book in my bag! Genius right…?

Not always!

How do school bags cause issues for children?

Heavy school bags problems
This causes your child to lean too far forward, resulting in a rounded upper back and shoulders that slouch forward. Whilst this position isn’t necessarily harmful or damaging, it can increase the load going through your child’s back in a different way to what they are used to and as a result cause pain or discomfort.

Wearing a heavy backpack on one shoulder
This can affect the neck, lower back and shoulder, resulting in pain due to the amount of load sitting on one side of the body. Bags were made with two straps for a reason, to evenly distribute the load. It is not uncommon for us to see a child come in with one sided pain or issue that can be related back to this habit at school!

Thin Straps
Thin straps can dig into the shoulder and neck muscles – causing pain while also put a large strain on the neck throughout the day. This can result in bad posture and back pain. When shopping around for a decent school bag for your child, it’s important to keep these things in mind because often when you try a bag at the shops, it isn’t completely full of books and everything else; therefore it may feel comfortable at first.

Whilst our kids are strong and resilient to pain and injury, it is still important for us to have a sensible approach to load, the same way we would ourselves in any kind of manual labour exercise – which is essentially what carrying a bag around all day is!

I’d like to emphasise however that wearing a school bag incorrectly does NOT mean that a child will experience back pain, discomfort or injury, it can only increase the likelihood that will happen; the degree to which is entirely individual and unpredictable. Many kids will incorrectly wear a heavy school bag for their entire schooling years without issue and other kids can wear one perfectly and have an issue.

The most important take away point from the above is that we should educate our kids on how to wear a school bag in the most efficient way, however we should NEVER resort to using fear as a tactic to ensure compliance – this is the most harmful thing we could do to a child’s future pain or injury risk. Using language moving towards positive such as, “Wearing your school bag like this can help to make you feel better so you can play more of your sport etc”, rather than, “if you don’t wear your school bag like this you’ll get back pain and have to have time off your sport etc”.

These slight changes in language do actually make a huge difference in a person’s self efficacy and pain/injury resilience down the road as an adult!

Top 7 tips to reduce the pain of
going back to school!

  1. School bags should not weigh more than 10% of your child’s body weight.
  2. The school bag should be worn close to the body with heavier items placed nearest to your child’s back.
  3. Your child should wear their school bag on both shoulders at all times.
  4. Buy school bags with wide straps that are comfortable on your child’s shoulders.
  5. Waist and chest straps on bags will significantly decrease the load on the shoulders and neck.
  6. To decrease the amount of weight in your child’s school bag, ensure they are only taking the books that they will need that day (arranging separate folders for each subject may help with this).
  7. Encourage your child to be physically active throughout the day (even if that means you need to join in!)
    If you are concerned about your child’s posture, aches and pains or would just like some advice and guidance on keeping your child healthy and active this year, contact Physio Fit Adelaide on (08) 7226 9901 or email us at admin@physiofitadelaide.com.au

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Mana NankivellMana Nankivell
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I highly recommend Trent and the Physio Fit team.I sustained a knee injury (fat pad impingement) in a half-marathon around 18 months ago, and after 12 months of seeing a (different) physio and sports doctors without any improvement, I was told by the doctor that I would "probably just have to put up with the pain".I booked in with the team at Physio Fit for another opinion, and it was the best decision I ever made. Trent put together a very manageable rehab plan for me and was quick to respond and adapt when something didn't work out. In the past 6 months, I've gone from not being able to walk without pain or even think about hiking, running or cycling without my knee flaring up, to running my first post-injury 5.5km trail run and hiking 10km with a 10kg pack!
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I attended Physio Fit to get my tennis elbow treated. Always a friendly greeting from the lovely reception staff, and my physio, Corey, was fantastic; very friendly, knowledgeable and provided treatment that was personalised and holistic. Following Corey's advice and exercise regime helped me get back to the activities I enjoy, pain-free. Highly recommended.
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Have been taking my daughter here for quite a few months now for ongoing back issues. The care that she has been given through her Physiotherapist Corey, has been fantastic. Everything has been explained and if exercises have needed to be modified he has. Would thoroughly recommend this place for any Physio needs. All staff that we have dealt with have been friendly and professional. A great team and environment.
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