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Home  /  Blog  /  Teenage back pain & schoolbags – a weighty issue
2nd April 2024

Teenage back pain & schoolbags – a weighty issue

Emma Jeyes-Friendship

Does your child or teenager complain of having to carry heavy schoolbags, resulting in back pain, sore neck and shoulders?

Posture problems

As a mum of a teenage daughter I am aware of how heavy schoolbags can get. Teenage back pain from carrying heavy bags seems to be quite a problem especially with many schools not providing lockers or storage to leave items at school; Folders, packed lunch, a full water bottle, stationary case, books to name a few. Not forgetting artwork folders/musical instruments etc and more can all contribute to quite a heavy load on the body and posture. This can result in posture problems, neck, shoulder and back pain.

Common complaints

  • Feeling uneven, lopsided
  • Frequent shoulder and neck strain
  • Backache and back pain
  • Constantly adjusting posture
  • persistent pain and low mood all contributing to..
  • Inability to relax and concentrate

This is alarming because children do not have a fully developed physical frame and as a result they don’t have the muscles, wide shoulders, strong joints and bones of a fully grown adult.

What happens?

Carrying an overloaded and heavy schoolbag puts a significant amount of strain on their body which can result in:

  • Muscle strains & repetitive strain injuries from picking up and swinging the bag onto the shoulder.
  • Postural imbalance – ‘drop shoulder’ is a common issue when wearing the bag with one strap. where one shoulder will become lower than the other. This can cause other problems including pain, loss of mobility and an unusual gait.
  • Forward head posture and rounded shoulders are also common when carrying a heavy schoolbag. It causes the centre of gravity to shift so their upper body is pulled backwards. The neck and shoulders compensate by leaning forwards in an effort to carry the weight.

Tips and solutions

  • Pack the heavier items first. Place items like books and pencil cases into the bottom of the schoolbag. 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 preventing back pain.
  • Check the weight of the schoolbag often – shouldn’t exceed 10% of the childs body weight. Clear out regularly to prevent unnecessary weight.
  • Use a bag appropriately sized for the child – make sure the bag is good quality that will spread the weight evenly across back and hips and is not longer than the childs torso.
  • Ensure that it has wide padded adjustable shoulder straps, back padding and carry handle.
  • Teach your child how to correctly pick up and carry their schoolbag – bending the knees and standing up with a straight back.
  • Visit your sports physiotherapist who can help, advise and treat concerns specifically for teenage backpain
  • Check your back health and get a personalised exercise plan with our Computerised Back Scan.

Published on: 2nd April 2024