Back to School: School Bag Tips

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Jane Farrelly

Jane Farrelly

Jane is a registerd Osteopath from Australia and has worked as a trainer with various Australian Football Teams and Life Surfing Clubs. She has extensive experience in sports injuries and postural issues.
Jane Farrelly

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    The new school year is all of a sudden upon us and with it comes the inevitable packing of even more books into your child’s backpack. As they get older the textbooks get fatter and it is important to ensure that they have an appropriate bag for their needs. Poorly fitted or badly packed school bags can lead to spinal injuries which may continue into adulthood.

    Here are some tips to help decrease the load on your child’s spine:
     

    1. Choose a good backpack and ensure it is the correct size

    Some of the following features should be considered when selecting your childs backpack

    • The pack should be lightweight so as not to contribute further to the load.
    • Thick padded shoulder straps and a padded backing so nothing is digging into your childs skin.
    • A strap around the waist and a bag with many compartments to evenly distribute weight.
    • The back pack shouldn’t sit more than 10cm (3 inches) above the shoulders and not much lower than the top of the pelvis.

    2. Fit the backpack correctly

    • The main weight of the bag should be sitting above the waist.
    • The straps should be adjusted firmly so that there is no gap between the backpack and the shoulder blades.
    • The waist belt should be firmly fitted on the hip bones (where your child would place their hand-on-their-hips) to allow the hips to carry some of the load rather than burdening the shoulders and spine.
    • Ensure the straps aren’t digging into the arms.

    3. Pack the backpack properly and teach your child how to pack it properly

    • It is important to pack the heaviest items closet to the spine, these items should also be flat so as not to dig into the back.
    • Once you have packed the bag check for any gaps behind the shoulders and ensure the bag isn’t too low. Re-adjustment may need to occur as the bag will sit differently once the load in applied.
    • Teach your child how to pack their bag well as they will be responsible for it throughout the day.

    Final Tips

    • The backpack should always be worn over two shoulders.
    • Try to avoid excessive load if possible, a child shouldn’t carry more than 10% of their body weight.
    • Be observant and check their backpack every school term to ensure it’s fitted properly; sometimes the straps loosen over time and children can grow very quickly.

     
    Image Credit: Backpack fashion by Jens Rost. Used under a creative commons license.