Back to school back pain

Posted by SportsMed NQ, 6 April 2016

We can sometimes forget how heavy textbooks can be, add in a water bottle, lunch and anything else they need for the day and the weight adds up


It is that time of year when parents breathe a sigh of relief with the resumption of school but this creates another problem. 32053527_M_0

Today school bags can almost weigh as much as the child!

70% of Australian school children suffer schoolbag related pain. This was the primary finding of research undertaken by the Australian Physio Association.

65% of school children also reported fatigue as a result of poorly fitting schoolbags. Other impacts of poor bags were muscle strain, joint injury neck and shoulder pain, lower back pain lasting into adulthood and postural changes.

How can we help?

In terms of recommendations: choose a well fitted backpack and wear it effectively. This plays a vital role in treating and preventing back related injuries.

Some key findings

: A backpack should be less than 10% of your childs body weight

: The backpack should contain wide, padded and adjustable shoulder straps and have a hip strap

: Try to find a bag that is endorsed by an association such as the Spartan backpack- Physiopak endorsed by the Aust Physio Assoc

When worn the backpack should sit just above the waist and not hang over the buttocks. The heaviest part of the load should be carried close to the back, closest to the spine and bent knees should be used when lifting the backpack.

The Spartan backpack is developed to limit the load the child carries and reduces the sag that the load caused in the bag. The rigid EVA foam and the waist belt allows the weight to be distributed across the shoulders, back and gluteals of the wearers’ body.

Your child goes to school with good posture but what happens when they sit for 6 hours or studies for long periods at night?

Traditionally school children get neck and shoulder pain related to posture. The head weighs approx 7 kgs and for every inch your head moves forward you increase the pressure on your neck by 5kgs. When your child slumps in their chair the pressure on the discs of their lower back skyrockets. Studies show that by sitting properly in a good posture increase the pressure on the discs by 40% but sitting in a slumped and poorly supported chair can increase the pressure by 200%

Poor posture can cause pain in two ways

  1. Pain associated with sustained positions where muscle fatigue gets to the point of being painful (usually because of lack of blood flow and oxygen)
  2. Habitual poor posture will lead to change in muscle length and strength. This is likely to cause actual injury to other structure in your spine, shoulders and hips

Some helpful tips for good posture

  1. Eyes level with the monitor
  2. Shoulders down and elbows close to the body
  3. Back support for the curve of your spine
  4. Arms parallel to the floor resting on the arm support
  5. Feet flat on the floor

Unfortunately sitting for long periods is not ideal. It is important to change position/ stand every 30-40 mins. Moving encourages blood flow to muscles that have been static and stretches and lengthens muscles that have been working hard to maintain postures

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