How Heavy School Bags Can Affect Posture

posture advice for children from our ealing chiropractorThe Christmas holidays are finally over and children are heading back to school. As parents pack their children’s schoolbags for the return to school, they are often amazed by how many items they contain. Books, pens, paper, calculators, food, clothing, shoes, and many other objects must somehow be squeezed into their child’s bag.

Unfortunately, dealing with a fully loaded school bag isn’t just a logistical nightmare — it can present a serious health risk to young children. If a bag is incorrectly fitted or very heavy, it can impact a child’s health, changing their posture, causing muscle strains, and injuring the body’s joints.

In fact, many of the children who visit our chiropractic clinic in Ealing have postural issues that can be directly traced back to many hours struggling with heavy school bags. In this post, our Ealing chiropractor will explain how an overweight school bag can affect a young child and how to protect your child.


How Can Carrying An Overweight Bag Affect A Child?

The use of heavy schoolbags is concerning because children do not have a fully developed physical frame. They don’t have the muscles, wide shoulders, robust joints, and strong bones of a fully grown adult. This means that carrying, picking up, and holding heavy objects can place a significant amount of strain on their body. The most concerning effects of heavy schoolbags include:


Muscle strains

The simple act of picking up a heavy school bag places a significant amount of stress on the muscles in the back and shoulders. This can lead to children experiencing strained muscles which cause pain and impaired mobility. Fortunately, strained muscles usually respond well to chiropractic care.


Postural imbalances

This is the most concerning aspect of having a heavy bag. If a child has a heavy bag that is often placed on a single shoulder, it can cause them to develop a postural imbalance called ‘drop shoulder’. One shoulder will become lower than the other, which causes a series of other problems including pain, loss of mobility, and an unusual gait.

Forward head posture and rounded shoulders are also common postural problems that can occur when a child is wearing a heavy and poorly fitted back pack. These issues occur because a poorly fitted back pack can shift a child’s centre of gravity so their torso is pulled backwards, with their neck and shoulders leaning forwards in an effort to carry the weight.

A surprisingly high proportion of children brought into our chiropractic clinic for help are suffering from this affliction.


Repetitive strain injuries

Children will pick up and put down their school bag dozens of times each day. If the bag is extremely heavy, there is a risk of a repetitive strain injury developing. This could affect any of the muscles and joints in the arms, hands, neck, shoulders, or back.


What Steps Can You Take To Protect Your Child?

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to protect your child, including:


#1 – Regularly check the weight of your child’s bag

Ensure that your child never carries a bag that is too heavy by regularly checking its weight. Ideally, the weight of a packed school bag should never exceed 10% of your child’s body weight. If you find that the backpack exceeds this threshold, take some of the steps listed below.


#2 – Use a school bag that is appropriately sized

High-quality backpacks are usually the best option for children as they spread the weight of the bag evenly across the hips and back. When choosing a backpack, look for one which is no wider than your child’s chest.

Additionally, avoid getting a school bag that is longer than your child’s torso. Ideally:

  • Toddlers (2-4 years old) should use school bags a maximum of 30 cm in length
  • Young children (4-7 years old) should use school bags a maximum of 38 cm in length
  • Youth (8-16 years old) should use school bags a maximum of 45 cm in length


#3 – Prioritise comfort and features over aesthetics

The ideal school bag should be designed with ergonomics in mind. Look for a backpack that has:

  • Broad, padded shoulder straps
  • Adjustable straps
  • Hand straps so it can be carried short distances easily
  • Padding on the back for comfort


#4 – Pack the heavier items first

Place items like books and pencil cases into the bottom of the school bag. This will ensure that heavy items are located close to lumbar region of the spine. This makes it easier for your child to support the weight of the bag and allows the spine to maintain its natural curve.


#5 – Leave items at school

Encourage your child to leave books and other heavy items at school, particularly if they won’t be used again until the next school day. There is no point carrying around heavy items which will not be used at home.


#6 – Teach your child how to lift their school bag safely

If your child’s bag is on the heavier side, it may be worth teaching them how to pick it up safely. Ideally, they should squat and hold the bag close to their body before using their legs to stand up. This prevents excessive stain being placed on the back or shoulders.


#7 – Visit a chiropractor in Ealing

A chiropractor can help you fit a school bag appropriately to your child. They can also examine your child’s posture to determine if there are any pre-existing issues which need to be corrected using chiropractic techniques.


If you are interested in making a booking with one of our experienced team of chiropractors in Ealing, contact The Spine & Joint Centre today on 020 8900 9004 or email us via info@spineandjointcentre.co.uk.

The Spine and Joint CentreFrom the Team at The Spine and Joint Centre

Experienced Ealing and Harrow Chiropractors and Osteopaths that care for You
Serving the local communities of North West London
Including Ealing, Harrow, Wembley and Sudbury