Australian studies have found that heavily loaded, ill-fitting backpacks may be responsible for posture problems causing many young Australians neck and back pain that could lead to permanent spinal damage in later life.
The Back In Motion Health Group, one of Australia’s leading physiotherapy groups, is taking proactive steps to help combat this growing concern by providing schools, parents, and students with the right advice when it comes to protecting young backs.
For the last 3 years, Back In Motion has been offering free school bag fitting assessments in many of our practices, ensuring a correct fit to the students back while also educating parents on safe loading, and re-fitting the backpack when necessary. As part of this growing initiative, Back In Motion’s 40+ locations around Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and the Gold Coast will taking the next step and providing local schools with the opportunity to have a professional physiotherapist attend their school for onsite fittings and education.
This a great opportunity for schools to deliver even more value to parents and students as they prepare and eventually settle in to another exciting school year.
We’ve found these sessions particularly valuable to parents of school starters and students still in their early primary school years. As parents are traditionally more hands on in these years it helps increase awareness and equips them to take a proactive approach in helping their children develop good posture and a healthy back.
If you would like to arrange a Back In Motion physiotherapist to attend your school you can contact the Back In Motion National Support Office on 1300 589 581.
Back In Motion Guide to Fitting Your Childs School Bag
Download a printable copy of this guide HERE
Back pain is usually a condition we associate with growing older, however more and more children and youth are reporting discomfort and poor posture.
In many cases, the cause of back pain is the result of carrying excessive loads to and from school in an ill-fitting backpack.
An Australian study found that heavily loaded backpacks (on average loaded with more than five kilograms) were responsible for posture problems that may cause neck and back pain and could lead to permanent spinal damage in later life.
We’ve put this handy guide together to help you choose the right backpack, ensure it is fitted correctly, and have included a few extra tips on keeping the load your children are carrying at a comfortable level.
Choosing the Right Back Pack
If you’re looking for a backpack for your child here are some key features to look out for:
- A lightweight pack that doesn’t add a lot of weight to your child’s load.
- Two wide, adjustable, padded shoulder straps; straps that are too narrow can dig into shoulders.
- A padded back, which not only provides increased comfort, but also protects kids from being poked by sharp edges on objects (pencils, rulers, notebooks, etc.) inside the pack.
- A waist belt, which helps to distribute the weight more evenly across the body.
- Multiple compartments, which can help distribute the weight more evenly.
Choosing the Correct Size
The top of the backpack should not be any more than 3cm (1inch) higher than the shoulders so that your child can look up at the ceiling without hitting it. The bottom of the bag should be slightly lower than the iliac crest (that bony part of your waist you can put your hands on top of). If your child’s bag has a waist strap, it should wrap around the body just below this crest. It allows some of the bags weight to be taken by the hips, lightening the load on the back and shoulders.
Some bags may also feature the sternal strap, which joins the two shoulder straps. To help take strain off the shoulders it should be positioned 6cm below the collarbone.
How to Fit Your Childs School Bag
Ideally, the centre of mass of a pack should be at waist height. It should fit the body comfortably and have adjustable buckles to lower or lift the pack into position once on the wearer’s back. There should be a waist belt to keep the load in place when on the move, and separate compartments to allow heavy items to be packed close to the body. The pack should be padded where it touches the back, and should be made of firm material to prevent sagging.
Adjusting the Straps
The straps should be tight enough so that the bag is held against the torso. It shouldn’t be leaning away, leaving a gap between the back of the shoulders and the bag, and shouldn’t have room to swing around.
It mustn’t be so tight that it’s uncomfortable or digs in to the underarms.
- Limit the child’s load; plan ahead so they don’t carry too much.
- They should never carry more than 10% of their body weight.
- Pack heavy items closest to the spine.
- They should take regular short rests when carrying a heavy pack.
- They should always wear their backpack over both shoulders.