Picking the best school bag, and how to wear it

As parents around the country are busy getting their kids prepared for the upcoming school year, we thought we’d share this article from BubHub, written with information from Osteopathy Australia. Carrying a backpack that is too heavy, or not fitted correctly, can cause long term damage to young spines, so it’s important to get your kids off to school on the right foot.

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

Most people don’t know that 90% of school children don’t wear their bag correctly, which can be a big potential health risk if left too long.

Back pain is common in Australian children, particularly during adolescence. According to Australian rheumatologists, some causes of back pain in young people include poor posture, inappropriate forms of exercise and carrying heavy schoolbags.

For this reason, parents need to know which the best school bags are, and how to teach their child to wear them properly.

What style
There are so many different styles of school bags available to purchase that it can become difficult to choose the right one. The style found to best suit children entering school and returning to primary school is an ergonomic backpack. Below are features that you should look for when purchasing a new bag.

  • A moulded frame which conforms to your child’s back when adjusted correctly
  • Two wide, adjustable shoulder straps with padding for extra comfort – Wearing a bag with only one should strap curves the spine unnaturally, putting stress on the whole body.
  • An adjustable hip or sternum strap
  • A padded back
  • Separate compartments that allow packing ease
  • One made from canvas or other light-weight material
  • A size no wider than your child and no higher than 3 cm above their shoulders – they should be able to look up to the ceiling without their head hitting the bag.
  • A brand that is endorsed by a professional or health organisation, as this will have been tested to be a great option

How to Wear
Ideally, a school bag should weigh less than 10% of the child’s body weight, for instance a child weighing 40kg should carry 2-3kg, and 4kg at the very most. To distribute this weight evenly on the child’s back, both shoulder straps should always been used. They should be adjusted so that the bottom of the bag sits around the child’s waist – trace a line from their belly button around to their back, the bottom of the bag should sit around there. The bag should not hang out from the shoulders – it should contour to your child’s back – and should not swing from side to side when your child is moving around.

To ensure that your child actually does wear the bag correctly when you aren’t there, explain to them that it can cause serious injury to their spine, shoulders, and neck if they don’t wear it right. It is only the best school bag if it’s used the right way. Regularly check with them to see if the bag is comfortable, or if they are in any kind of pain. If any pain persists, see a doctor to be certain there are no problems.

Extra tips
Encourage your kids to do a few slow gentle stretches whenever it is convenient. Avoid over pressures and bouncing. Here are some simple stretches for home:

Shoulder shrug

Inhale and shrug your shoulders up to your ears. Hold then release and drop. Repeat three times.
Arm circles

While standing, stretch your arms out to the side. Slowly circle your arms forward for five rotations. Stop and circle your arms backwards for five rotations.
Torso twist

Stand with your arms loosely by your side and turn your torso to the right. Let your left heel come off the ground as you twist. Repeat for the left side, letting your right heel come off the ground as you twist. Repeat several times on both sides.
Check with your school to see if there are any restrictions to the style or colour of bag you need to have before you start looking. When you’re picking out the best school bag, make sure you consider your child’s opinion and get something that pleases you both, but don’t compromise on the important things: it’s your child’s health!

– this article was written with information from Osteopathy Australia

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