If your child has to lean forward while carrying their bag, or if the bag weighs more than 10 to 20% of their body weight, then it is too heavy for them and may cause problems, like back and neck pain, in the future. Follow this checklist to help reduce the risk of back pain in children:
- Talk to the school about the use of lockers to minimise the number of heavy books and equipment that they have to carry around.
- Encourage your child to sort out their bag daily, only carrying with them what they need for each and every day.
- Look for a lightweight, ergonomically designed 'rucksak' type bag with waist or chest straps, in addition to shoulder straps, as these can help to distribute the load. Make sure that the shoulder straps are wide and padded.
- Adjust the shoulder and waist straps so that the weight sits on the lower back and hips, not purely on the shoulders.
- Check the fit regularly - it may need frequent adjustments, particularly during growth spurts.
- Make sure that your child wears the rucksak correctly! There is no point in going to all this effort if they continue to sling it over one shoulder. Explain to them, that whilst it might be 'nerdy', correct carrying will help to minimise back pain.
- It's worthwhile for the grown-ups to follow these tips too - many handbags and purses are far heavier than they need to be! Sort them out, only carry what you need, leave unnecessary items (like the kitchen sink!) at home. Use a handbag with a longer strap that can be carried diagonally across the chest, rather than hitched up on the one shoulder. Not only is this much easier and frees up both hands, but it will prevent you from hitching up and lifting the shoulder which can cause neck and upper back pain.