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Minimising School Bag Damage

  • The bag should not be more than 10% of the child's own weight.  A child weighing 30 Kg should not carry more than 3 Kg on his back.
  • Choose a schoolbag with broad, padded straps.  Narrow straps can squeeze nerves or blood vessels, and also chafe the skin.
  • Satchels and bags with one strap cause asymmetrical distribution of weight on the spine.  This can lead to long term back pain and other problems.
  • The child should always use both straps of the school bag.  Slinging the bag over one shoulder causes spine damage.
  • Bend at the knees with the back straight when lifting the bag.  Lift with the legs, not the back.

Is the bag too heavy?

  • If the child needs help to lift it onto the shoulders.
  • If the child leans forward when walking with it.
  • If the child pants for breath after walking a short distance with the bag.
  • If the child complains of shoulder and back aches and pains.

Heavy Schoolbags and

This article written by:
Dr. Parang Mehta
About Dr Parang

Do you sometimes feel schools are training children to be coolies (porters) when they grow up?  You're not alone.  All over the world, parents, doctors, and educationists are worrying about the weight that children have to carry, and the effect it has on their backs, shoulders, and general health.

An average schoolday 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.

Problems caused by heavy bags

Lifting heavy burdens for a long time or distance isn't good for anyone, least of all children.  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 15% of body weight makes a child or adolescent unable to maintain proper standing posture.  Children could get into bad habits like poor posture and slouching.

Forward bending at the back (also called kyphotic posture) makes the work of breathing harder.  Children carrying bags weighing more than 10% of their body weight 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.

Strategies to lighten the load

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.  

Last revision: July 30, 2010

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