Students' heavy bags a weight watcher

CHILDREN carrying too much weight in their school bags could be doing long-term, irreversible damage to their spines.

Spine Alive chiropractor Alison Bennett said the message was not getting across to children that they needed to not only reduce the weight of their bags but it was just as important to wear the bag correctly.

Symptoms of spinal damage may not become apparent until later in life and could include back pain, increased rates of degeneration or scoliosis. 

Mrs Bennett said she regularly saw children walking around in Orange with bags hanging off one shoulder or not sitting correctly against the child’s back.

“It’s important to make sure the straps are done up tightly so the backpack is resting firmly, flat on the back,” she said.

“You need to have a supportive backpack not just one that is trendy.”

Australian Physiotherapy Association national president Marcus Dripps said school bags should not weigh more than 15 per cent of a child’s body weight.

Mrs Bennett said that weight would be ideal but it was not practical.

“It’s just unrealistic, with some kids you give them a drink bottle, a lunch box, a sandwich and an apple and with the weight of the bag itself that is already 10 per cent,” she said.

Orange Anglican Grammar School offers their students an alternative to a backpack. 

Parents can purchase a bag on wheels with an extended handle.

Mrs Bennett said the bags could be a good alternative but children needed to make sure they were not dragging them around.

“It means you can put more in it but at some point they’ll have to carry it upstairs or something and they’ll have to carry more weight,” she said.

Good health  in the bag ... how to have  perfect pack 

* Wide shoulder straps that are comfortable and sit well on the shoulders.

* Waist and chest straps to help transfer some of the load to the hips and pelvis.

* Children to wear both straps at all times.

* A padded back support that allows the pack to fit snug on the back. 

* The backpack must fit the child. Don’t buy a big pack to grow into. 

* Keep the load close to the spine. Pack the heaviest items nearest your child’s back. 

* Encourage your child to be physically active. This helps build and maintain a strong spine. 

* Encourage your child to be organised when packing their bag for school by checking their timetable to ensure they are only carrying what they need.

* To decrease the load, your child should have separate folders for each subject so they only bring home what they need for their homework. 

Source: the Australian Physiotherapy Association

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