The gradual increase of weight of the school bags can have a long-term effect on the children health and wellbeing.
Every bone in our body has a growth point and it grows as per age. The skeleton is under-development during the growth years in children; therefore, carrying huge weight on their backs, even for a short time can expose them to a greater risk of abnormal growth.
Some potential problems, which are the result of regular carrying of heavy backpacks, are physiological and compensatory Scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and hunchback deformity or even Trapezitis. Trapezius muscle, in the human body is a muscle at the back of the neck that helps in the shrugging movement of the shoulders along with the upward movement of the head. Regular weight handling and bad posture can cause inflammation and muscle spasm in this muscle, which is known as Trapezitis.
In the long run, a gradual increase in the weight of a backpack can result in bad posture and slouching can become evident in the child. Bad posture can contribute to breathing or lung disorders due to the compensation of unilateral lung. If you slouch or hunch back, you are squeezing your lungs and decreasing your breathing volume and oxygen intake. Less oxygen in your body means lack of energy, it can also potentially damage the nerves that travel through the neck and shoulders; lowering the muscles’ ability to do as the brain commands.
In other words, heavy backpacks can affect your child’s health and physical development and can have adverse effect on their overall growth.
Look for lightweight backpacks with wide and padded shoulder straps while buying backpacks, for extra support to neck and shoulder. Even carrying heavy trolley bags, or pulling them with one hand can result in similar issues. Children should be advised not to carry their backpacks on one shoulder. This creates extra pressure on one side tilting the spine. Whether you’re a child or an adult, it is always best to support the saddle of the bag with two hands In general, parents should be observant of their children’s well-being. This includes checking if the children tend to bend to the side or have any hunchback tendency or deformity. If your child is complaining about back, neck and shoulder pain, fatigue along with tingling, numbness and weakness in the hands, one should immediately visit a doctor and not restore to home massages or treatments. Some children may also complain of continuous headaches along with neck or shoulder pain.
Keep a watch on your child’s posture while carrying his backpack. If you observe slouching or bending, help him/her to pack their bags correctly. Include simple stretch exercises, yoga and spinal strengthening exercises in their daily routine to avoid long term ill effects.
Dr. Prem James Charles
Specialist Orthopaedic Surgeon
Aster Specialist Centre for Orthopedics & Physiotherapy, Al Qusais 2
Dr. Prem James Charles, is MBBS, MS (Orthopaedics), FAEM (CMC Vellore). He has completed his MBBS in VMMC, Karaikal in 2004. Following which he has undergone training in Accident and Emergency Medicine in CMC, Vellore for 2 years. After which ,he attained his MS(Orthopaedics) in VMMC, Karaikal in 2010 with a Gold medal . He is currently the specialist Orthopaedic surgeon at Aster Medical Center, Al Qusias 2, Near DAFZA, Metro Station Dubai.