Is your child’s backpack creating health issues?

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Excruciating pain shoots down a 15-year-old’s back, his shoulders tense up and he needs to catch his breath.

The pain fades slightly into the background and the teenager picks up his school bag and goes to school.

Is it a serious illness or is the youngster being plagued by something else entirely?

Dr Jitesh Deonarian of KZN Muscle and Joint Clinic says it is possible and there is a common cause.

“Children carrying excessively heavy backpacks are a common reason that children come into my practice,” he says. 

While school children need their trusty backpacks for school, Dr Deonarian says paying attention to how to wear a backpack can help your children in preventing back and shoulder pain.

“It’s easy for them to grab their backpack as they head out the door, even simply slinging it over one shoulder. But wearing a backpack incorrectly can lead to more pressure on the neck, shoulders, and back,” he explains.

In his quest to help youngsters, Dr Jitesh has supplied useful tips on how to choose the right school bag for your child. As well as how to carry them correctly.
  • The general guideline is for children to carry no more than 15 per cent of their body weight. In practice, that would generally mean no more than 3.5kg to 5kg for a child in the first few years of school.
  • Always wear both shoulder straps, rather than slinging your backpack with one strap over one shoulder. It takes a moment longer, but this simple habit can help prevent problems.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so the backpack is high on your back and the shoulder straps are comfortable on your shoulders. The pack should not extend past one’s waist but should ride an inch or more above your hips.
  • Readjust the straps when you are wearing different thicknesses of clothing, so they are not too tight or too loose.
  • Your backpack should not sway from side to side as you walk. This can lead to chafing from the shoulder straps. A stable load is better.
  • If the backpack has a waist strap or chest strap, you should use it. Waist straps help to distribute the weight load to the hips, relieving shoulder pressure. A chest strap helps keep the shoulder straps in place and reduces swaying of the pack.
  • With your pack fitted and positioned properly, you should be able to wear it even for running without it swaying.

By following these easy steps, your child can minimise issues with their backs and shoulders due to their backpacks.

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