It’s common these days to see schoolchildren carrying around large, heavy school backpacks. Many are so large, in fact, that one can’t help but wonder whether or not such a heavy backpack or school bag might not only be causing back pain, but could also result in other types of damage, including scoliosis or other spinal deformities.
In one day, the average school child studies about 8 different subjects. This means that children carry at least 8 different school books, and this doesn’t include other notebooks, worksheets and other things they might need. The impact of carrying heavy bags over time does often cause children to experience back pain, with girls generally experiencing more pain than boys. Children carrying particularly heavy school bags frequently develop a forward head posture, with the body hinging forward at the hips to balance out and compensate for the heavy weight on their backs, thus causing unnatural posture alignment.
As children do not carry their backpacks for the entire day, thankfully, it does not or minimally affects their growth. While weighty backpacks may cause hunchback or spinal curvature, it should not result in permanent spinal deformities or scoliosis unless the child already had these as pre-existing conditions. This means, if a child did have existing spinal problems, such as scoliosis, but the parents were unaware of the condition, carrying around a heavy backpack on a daily basis can cause spinal curvature or hunching and may cause an already crooked or malformed spine to worsen due to the considerable added weight of the bag.
In this day and age, children can often be neglected or left to their own devices when it comes to what might appear to be more minor issues, such as this one, but which are, in fact, important matters that need care and attention. Some parents may be entirely unaware of how much weight their children are carrying around in their backpacks each day, and when their children begin to complain of back pain, they may or may not even realize the cause simply because they did not pay enough attention to the matter at the time or simply did not notice.
The weight of a child’s backpack should be appropriate to the child’s weight and size. For elementary school-age children, a backpack carried by a child weighing 30-40 kgs should be no more than 2 kgs. Many children are carrying around school backpacks that weigh up to 5 kgs, which in the long-term, is likely to have negative health repercussions for the child. This, therefore, is an important issue that parents must be attentive of, and look for alternatives. Educational institutions, also, should consider ways to rectify the matter, such as allowing school books to be kept in the classroom, thereby reducing further problems.
M.D., Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, 1961.