by Asha on  July 10, 2007 at 1:05 PM Health Watch
Backpacks and Backaches
Sharon swings her backpack, slings it over her shoulder and rushes off to school. She is all of fifteen, weighs 90 pounds and carries a backpack full of books that weighs 20 pounds.

Children, like Sharon, who carry backpacks that weigh more than 20% -25% of their body weight are more likely to develop backaches. Orthopedic experts suggest that backpacks must weigh no more than 15% of total body weight, the lesser the better.

Apart from weighty backpacks, those that do not fit properly or worn improperly can also be possible reasons for backpack-related backaches. Andrew Haig, director of the U-M Spine Program says that, '.... wearing a heavy, heavy backpack, when your muscles and your bones aren't ready for that, is not a good thing.'

Often, students over -pack their backpacks and sling it over one shoulder. This means unequal distribution of weight, putting more pressure only on one side of the body. This can result in muscle spasms, shoulder or lower back pain, posture problems, wear and tear of ligaments in the shoulder, neck or spine. Recent studies reveal that even children in fourth and fifth grades complain of backache due to heavy bags.

Wearing it Right

Sure, teenage is a time for a great many cool things in life-but it is also the time when backaches happen which can carry on into adult life. So, it is wise to keep that companion on your back the way it should be which is,
• Wear the backpack over both shoulders
• Carry only necessary text -books and note- books; do not over stuff the backpack with cosmetics and other paraphernalia
• Choose a backpack with many compartments; distribute things (and weight, thereby) within the backpack evenly
• Do not be tempted to buy cheap backpacks-choose one that is sturdy and fits you

Backpacks should fit snugly onto the middle of the back and should have padded shoulder straps. An additional waist strap helps keep the pack in place.

There's more! Chiropracter, Dr.Marvin Arnsdorff recommends some 'backpack safety' steps:
• Face your backpack before lifting it
• Bend at the knees; keep the back straight
• Using both hands, test the weight of your pack
• Lift the pack using your legs to take more weight and sparing the back
• Slip onto shoulders, using one strap at a time
• Secure all straps to your comfort.

Weighty Measures

How do you know if your backpack is way too heavy? Simple! Bring out that bathroom scale- put all the things from your backpack onto the scale and note the weight. If this reading indicates 15% more than your body weight, then my friend, your back is in for trouble!

In India, heavy school bags became such a 'weighty' issue, that the Indian Parliament introduced 'The Children School Bags (Limitation On Weight) Bill, 2006.' According to this,
• Weight of the school bag should not exceed ten percent of the child's body weight
• Nursery and kindergarten students should carry no school bags
• State government should provide appropriate lockers in schools
• Schools should issue guidelines on school bags
• Schools violating this bill are liable for penalty up to three lakh rupees
• A subsequent or second violation may cause the school to be de-recognized

Dr. Parang Mehta, Paediatrician, writes on his web site,, 'Parents often don't realise the magnitude of the problem. Water alone weighs a kilogram a litre. Books, raquets, lunchboxes, etc all add to the backpack weight. Children often carry huge burdens, and it is no wonder that so many of them have aching backs and shoulders'.

Isn't it time to check out that backpack and what it carries-remember you have only one back and it needs to be taken care of!

Source: Medindia

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