Children and their backpacks
Australian physiotherapists have expressed concern about schoolchildren incorrectly carrying heavy loads to and from school every day in their backpacks, especially in ‘saggy’ backpacks.
According to the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA), a heavy load that is carried incorrectly results in abnormal adjustments in posture to cope with the weight of the bag.
Over time, these posture adjustments can lead to back, neck and shoulder pain.
An Australian survey of more than 1200 schoolchildren aged 12 to 18 years found that a schoolchild will typically carry 5 or more kilograms in a backpack each day. This amount of weight can risk the health of a child’s back and neck, especially when the load is carried incorrectly.
The APA recommends the following tips to help make the use of backpacks safer for school kids.
Choosing the right bag
Make sure your backpack:
- fits your body comfortably;
- does not extend above the shoulders when you are seated;
- has broad, well-padded, adjustable shoulder straps;
- has a waist strap to keep the load in place when you are moving;
- has separate compartments to allow heavy items to be packed close to the body;
- is padded where it touches your back; and
- is made of firm material to prevent the load sagging backwards.
- Try to keep the load light — avoid carrying too many books on one day and never carry more than 10% of your bodyweight.
- Plan ahead to avoid carrying lots of equipment such as musical instruments, sports gear and art materials at the same time.
- Pack the heaviest items — such as a laptop — closest to your body, and lighter items further away.
- When packed, make sure your pack does not sag or pull backwards.
- Use both shoulder straps when you wear your backpack. Do not carry it over just one shoulder.
- Use the waist strap of your pack to keep the load in place when you are walking or cycling.
- Don’t carry your pack for too long — take a break and put it down.
Last Reviewed: 06 November 2009
- 1. Australian Physiotherapy Association. Young backs at risk [Website]. Aug 2008.
http://www.physiotherapy.asn.au/index.php/physiotherapy-a-you/kids/young-backs-at-risk (accessed April 2010).