An alarming 90% of school children have bad posture when carrying their bags and could experience spinal damage as a result, according to an Australian first observational chiropractic study.
The Chiropractors’ Association of Australia (CAA) study found most Aussie kids are exacerbating the problem by wearing their backpacks too low on their backs (33%) or slinging them over one shoulder (20%).
And a parental survey conducted in tandem with the in-field observational study revealed many children are also carrying the equivalent of up to 17% of their body weight in their school bags, almost twice the recommended maximum weight, as they make their way to and from school.
“These results are a major concern for the health of our schoolchildren”, said CAA spokesperson Dr. Billy Chow.
“Despite the increased use of technology in schools to assist learning, schoolchildren are still overloading their backpacks with textbooks, sports and other gear or simply not wearing them in the correct way.”
“Putting too much stress on a child’s back at such an important stage of growth and development will result in serious spinal problems immediately and later on in life.”
Some of the problems caused by bad posture at an early age include reduced mobility, possible early degeneration of bones and joints, increased vulnerability to injuries and unhealthy pressures on a child’s nervous system.
The parental survey also revealed parents are unaware of the problem and do not know the correct method for wearing backpacks. 40% of parents surveyed were oblivious to their child’s poor posture, despite one in three being concerned their children do not wear their backpacks in the correct position.
This is despite more than 85% of parents saying it is important that backpacks are ergonomically sound and one in five parents identifying ergonomic features as their primary consideration when purchasing a backpack.
To avoid the back to school backache, the CAA recommends:
- Backpacks should ideally be no heavier than 10 per cent of a student’s weight when packed
- Make sure the backpack is sturdy and appropriately sized – no wider than the student’s chest
- Choose a backpack with broad, padded shoulder straps
- Use both shoulder straps – never sling the pack over one shoulder
- Use waist straps attached – they are there for a good reason
- Don’t wear the backpack any lower than the hollow of the lower back
- Don’t overload the backpack – use school lockers and plan homework well in advance
- Place all heavy items at the base of the pack, close to the spine, for a better distribution of the weight.
“What these results show is that while nearly all schoolchildren have bad posture while carrying backpacks, there is a lack of knowledge about how to identify what is bad posture, and therefore how to improve it,” said Dr. Billy Chow.
“By raising awareness among parents, teachers and the public about the importance of good posture for schoolchildren, we can help reduce the cases of spinal injuries we see now and in the future.”