Nowadays, it has become a trend for schools to burden their pupils with heavy school bags and make an impression that they are doing something very good for their educational growth and development. However, unfortunately, they forget that they make them prone to spinal ailments by disturbing their normal spinal alignment. Heavy school bags are `deforming` children as growing numbers suffer irreversible spine problems.
Today, I saw a schoolboy in my street who was really struggling to carry his heavy school bag and was literally dragging it. I have seen a growing number of children are developing irreversible back deformities because of the weight of the bags they carry to school. Half of all children suffer back pain by the age of 14 and there is a rise in cases of spinal abnormalities in pupils, including disfiguring curvatures known as scoliosis.
Overloaded school bags are up to double the size of those who carried it, made them suffer from back problems. Children routinely carry bags with heavy books, laptops, sports kit, and packed lunches, which may weigh as much as many stones. I feel if children will continue with the same routine and carry more than 10 percent of their body weight over their shoulders may risk long-term and ultimately permanent damage.
Back problems are becoming an increasing issue among schoolchildren and schools no longer have adequate desk space for pupils to store heavy books. We need to have an urgent overview of this issue, and Parents are being urged to keep an eye on children`s backpacks so that they do not cause problems for their health when they are older.
Being a Physiotherapist, I would recommend to parents/guardians:
- The weight of the school bag shouldn`t be more than 10 percent of a child’s body weight.
- Bag should be sturdy and well-designed with wide padded shoulder straps. It will reduce pressure on the neck and shoulder area.
- The backpack should be worn correctly with both shoulders straps and the chest strap, and a pelvic strap if it is fitted.
- The heavy items should be placed close to the back.
- Bag shouldn`t be hanging off on one shoulder.
- Check your child’s posture after he wears the bag. If child is leaning forward or slouching, check the bag and pack it correctly.
- Organize their bags daily so they carry only those books and things which are needed for the day.
Article contributed by: Dr M.R Zulfi (Senior Consultant Physiotherapist, Incharge back school programme, Artemis Hospitals, India
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