As your children are gearing up to head back to school, there’s a sense of excitement in the air, after all it’s their back to school shopping time! Who isn’t thrilled about getting a brand new school bag, lunch box, water bottle, books and stationery? Kids are often excited about going back to school with a bag full of brand new supplies. As they settle down with school and academics, the initial excitement fades, but you notice that your children are still lugging heavy or may be even heavier backpacks. Like most parents, you feel apprehensive about the heavy loads on your child’s delicate shoulders.
It’s unfortunate that children today are overburdened, not only by their rigorous academics and structured activities but also by their burgeoning school bags. Ideally, the weight of the school bag should not be more than 10-15 % of his/her body weight. But for various reasons, children end up cramming their bags with bulky books, lunch boxes, laptops and other accessories. Studies show that children carry backpacks weighing from 7 lbs to as heavy as 20 lbs. These bulky school bags, when lugged to and fro from the school, become remote sources of injury in the long run. School years being the most crucial times of growth in children, the spine, bones and muscles are prone to stress and strain from excess weight they carry every day. Most of the damage goes unnoticed in the beginning, but long term use of overweight backpacks can affect your child’s health adversely.
Toting heavy school bags can cause a range of problems varying from sluggishness and postural problems to more critical health issues and physical deformities.
- Sluggishness: Heavy school bags can sap the energy of your children which eventually makes them slow and sluggish. They tend to be passive, disinterested and heavy-eyed in school which may impact their overall performance in school.
- Stress: With the advent of digital media and virtual games, children today do not get enough physical exercise. Their muscular strength, growth and body posture is impacted by poor physical activity. Even in schools, games and sports which boost child’s muscular strength are neglected. When these children lift and carry heavy backpacks, their shoulders, back, neck and legs give up causing physical stress on their entire musculoskeletal system. The physical stress soon translates into tiredness, lethargy, lack of interest in activities and mental distress.
- Pain: Children suffer from nagging pain in the neck, shoulders, back and legs. Headaches are also quite common which deter them from focussing on studies. When children complain of chronic headache, often parents and physicians think of eye strain or migraine, but something as obvious as an overloaded backpack can be easily overlooked.
- Numbness: The straps which hang on the shoulders create a lot of pressure on local nerves as well as blood vessels, thus interfering with blood supply to the arms and fingers. Children can experience tingling and numbness in the fingers, poor muscle strength and grip.
- Back Pain: According to back specialists, both low back pain and upper back pain are prevalent amongst school going children and young adolescents. More often than not, the pain is caused by their overstuffed backpacks. As in most of the schools, children have to climb up and down the stairs with heavy loads sagging on their backs, which makes their spine and muscles even more vulnerable to strain. When muscles around the spine and shoulders are unable to support the heavy weight, they become stiff, causing more spasm and pain.
- Spinal deformities: Recent studies have shown that heavy backpacks have negative impact on the spine; if neglected leads to chronic pain syndrome and deformities of spine. Degree of deformity depends on the weight carried and how it has been carried. Using single strapped bags or carrying backpacks on one side can cause excessive load on just one shoulder leading to Scoliosis (lateral curvature of spine). Scoliosis is the most prevalent spinal deformity observed in students today, followed by other deformities like Lumbar lordosis (inward curvature of lower back) and Kyphosis (hunching of back). In order to bear the weight of the bag, children hunch and stoop while walking. The higher the degree of curvature, greater the damage. With severe spinal curvatures, other internal organs like lungs may also be adversely affected.
Well, it is quite obvious that overweight backpacks can affect your child’s health. Since your child’s health is of paramount importance to you, it becomes exigent to address this issue before it adversely impacts a vital facet of life. The co-coordinative endeavours of students, parents and school authorities could successfully mow down the unnecessary weight off their backs and give them a fitter and healthier school life.