“Back” to School

“Back” to School


Do you sometimes feel schools are training children to be porters when they grow up?  You’re not alone.  All over the world, parents and doctors are worrying about the weight that children have to carry, and the effect it has on their backs, shoulders, and general health. Considering the resources Health& Safety place on manual handling in the adult workplace, it’s time that we give as much if not more attention to our children.

 An average school day consists of eight periods or classes, usually of different subjects.  Each subject requires the child to carry a textbook and several notebooks.  Added to the several kilograms of books and notebooks are lunchboxes, water bottles, and sports equipment.  Children end up carrying huge burdens on their backs, and it is no wonder that so many of them have aching backs and shoulders.

 Lifting heavy burdens for a long time or distance isn’t good for anyone, least of all children as their bones are ‘soft’ and still developing.  A recent study found that half of the schoolchildren studied had pain in the back or shoulders.  The researchers also found that children in lower grades carried heavier bags.

 Carrying a heavy bag on the back causes forward leaning and bad posture, which can lead to improper weight bearing on the spine, and pains and aches in the back and shoulders.  Carrying a backpack weighing in excess of 10-15% of body weight makes a child or adolescent unable to maintain proper standing posture.  Children can get into bad postural habits that can become habits of a lifetime.

 Forward bending at the back (also called kyphotic posture) makes the work of breathing harder.  Children carrying excessively bags have been found to have poorer lung function.  

Children who use one strap bags (which put weight on one shoulder only) have particular problems.  These bags cause sideways deviation of the spine (scoliosis) because of the asymmetric weight distribution, and this can cause long lasting back aches and damage. 

 Even something as simple as a child using two straps on his rucksack, rather than one, can make all the difference  between a healthy back and dangerously bad posture.

 Bags in the good old days were lighter because educational standards were lower, and there were not so many extracurricular activities available.  We can’t reduce educational standards or deprive children of their sports and other recreation, but efforts from teachers, school managements, and parents can help to great extent.  

 Blackwater Chiropractic makes the following recommendations for parents & schools,

 Provide lockers to children in school.

 This will allow them to leave sports equipment, and certain books and notebooks in school.

Tell students in advance which books will be needed and which can be left at home. 

 Bag it up.

 If your child has to carry a bag to school – make sure you offer advice as to the type of bag they choose.

Buying a backpack that has wide, padded shoulder straps and a waste belt. The straps should be adjusted so that the bag is held close to the back and weight is evenly distributed. Consider using a backpack with wheels.

Encourage your child to wear their backpack over both shoulders.

 Keep it light.

 Make sure your child is not carrying any unnecessary excess weight – check that all the items in their bags are essential.  

Limit the weight your child carries in a backpack to 10-15% of his body weight. 

Teach the child to put down the bag when waiting at the bus stop, in the assembly, etc.


Ivan Danne, B.Sc., D.C., M.C.A.I.

Doctor of Chiropractic

 If you require further advice on back care and spinal health, please feel free to contact Ivan at Blackwater Chiropractic (Mallow & Youghal) on 022 57715, 087 9268482 or at .