school bags are turning into a curse for kids, 80 percent of whom
carry loads up to a fifth of their body weight, really taxing
their backs, says a new research from the charity BackCare.
Studies show that carrying any more than a tenth of your body
weight can cause spinal damage. Experts warn we are facing an
epidemic of back problems in young adults when the long-term
effects of this early damage starts to appear.
"We are seeing increasing numbers of young adults coming for
treatment in relation to back trouble and this can often be traced
back to carrying heavy bags to school," warns Peter Skew, an
Essex-based expert in musculoskeletal medicine, the Daily Mail
Skew, vice-president of BackCare, adds: "Children's skeletons are
still developing, and having a heavy bag slung over one shoulder
can exert unnatural force on the spine, muscles and attachments.
"Rather like exercising only one side of your body in the gym, you
quickly get unilateral muscle-loading, which can cause the small
muscles in the back to tighten and compress the spine," adds Skew.
A 2007 British study showed that 13 to 50 percent of 11-17 year
olds have experienced back pain. And it's been shown that if you
experience back pain as a child, you are four times more likely to
have to endure back pain as an adult.
"Picking up and swinging a heavy backpack onto your shoulder
multiple times a day is potentially more damaging to a growing
body than having to walk a long distance with a static load," says
It's not just getting to and from school that's the problem,
because most schools no longer provide lockers or desks to store
books (children sit at tables), so children have no choice but to
carry everything around with them all day.
Skew says young people are made even more vulnerable to back
problems by their increasing inactivity - muscles don't develop
properly if you spend your time playing computer games instead of
running around. This is compounded by poor posture and
The weight of the bag is not the only factor to consider: the type
of bag your child is carrying can contribute to pain and strain.
The ideal school bag, according to Lorna Taylor, paediatric
physiotherapist, is a not-too-large backpack with wide, padded
straps to spread the load, and a waist belt. Heaviest items should
be closest to the spine, which is the centre of gravity, to reduce