BENGALURU: For six-year-old Sulekha (name changed), the burden of a heavy school bag led to severe back pains, forcing her parents to take her to a neurologist for consultations. Her bones were found to be normal, but the pain never reduced. She would get only temporary relief after using pain killers. It was later found that the pain was due to walking till her school with a heavy school bag on her shoulders. The pain eventually ceased once the load was reduced.
Dr Krishnan P R, Consultant Neurology, Fortis Hospital Bannerghatta Road said 70 per cent of students reported discomfort due to carrying their schoolbag. “The recommended average weight of the school bag should not exceed 10 per cent of the child’s weight. A bag that is too heavy can cause the child to increase the natural curvatures on the back and a ‘forward head posture’ can lead on to neck pain and headaches.”
Also, slinging a bag on one shoulder can create muscular imbalances due to repetitive asymmetric loading. Carrying heavy school bags can lead to neck or back pain, shoulder pain, headaches. poor posture and occasionally difficulty with breathing due to restriction of chest movements.
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“We receive around 20 such cases every month. Children’s bones and cartilages are soft, hence they get severely affected,” said Dr Parimala V Thirumalesh, Senior Consultant, Paediatrics and Neonatology, Aster CMI hospital. Not just that, doctors said there is an increase in cases of spondylitis due to heavy school bags as these lead to compression in the spinal cord and a bend in the cartilages when carried for a prolonged period of time.
Some possible measures
● Discourage slinging the bag on one shoulder and ensure wearing both straps of the bag
● Place heavier items closer to the child’s back and lighter items in the pockets further away
● Try and keep the backpack light
● Encourage the child to pack what they need for that day
● Buy a backpack with wide straps that are comfortable
● Waist and chest straps help to transfer some of the load
● When the child sits, the backpack should not extend above the shoulders
● Provision of lockers in schools for storing books.