DIET AND FITNESS:

Heavy Book Bags Cause Health
Problems for Children
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By Susan Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our panel of
Doctors and Registered Nurses  and other members of our
Editorial Board]




So numerous are the health problems caused by the weight
of school book bags that they have spawned something akin
to an explosion of research studies on the subject.

The most recent study was carried out in 2013 by Dr. I.
Dianat and Dr. N. Sorkhi of Tabriz University of Medical
Sciences in Iran. Looking at a cross section of school
children aged 12 to 16 who carried an average of 2.8
kilograms of weight in their school book bags, the
researchers discovered that 35.3% of the students reported
having neck pain, 33% reported having shoulder pain and
26.1% reported having low back pain. Girls reported having
pain more often than boys.

Although one 2007 study from researchers at the Regional
Health Centre in Arnhem, The Netherlands  described most of
the back pain and neck pain complaints of the 745 students
they examined as  “psychosomatic”, the overwhelming
number of studies from universities around the world
disagree. For example, a 2009 study from the College of
Allied Health Sciences, University of Cincinnati College in
Ohio found that 35% of the 33.5% of the 871 students
surveyed reported back pain from carrying school backpacks
that were too heavy.

A joint study in 2006 from the Children's Orthopaedic
Center, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, and the Keck School
of Medicine, University of Southern California ( the “Keck
Study”) found that 37% of the 1540 children aged 11 to 14
in the study reported back pain from carrying backpacks that
were too heavy.

As the 2006 Keck Study noted, “Of the children who
reported back pain, 34% limited their activity due to the
pain, 14% use medication for pain relief, and 82% believed
their backpack either caused or worsened their pain.”  

New Recommendations for Schoolbag Weight


These studies have led in some cases to recommended
weight limits for school backpacks.

One report from Dr. M.J. Moore of the Moore Chiropractic
Center in Redding California notes that a weight limit of 10%
to 15% was perhaps not strict enough to prevent musculo-
skeletal problems. He therefore recommended a weight cut-
off of 10% of the child’s body weight. Thus, a 80-pound
child should carry no more than 8 pounds of weight in a
back pack.  

This weight cut-off may in fact be still too generous. You will
have to monitor your child carefully to detect any strain
caused by carrying bags that are at the 10% limit.

Here are some of the many problems casued by carrying
school bags that are too heavy:

1.        Costochondritis . Costochondritis is a strain of the
muscles connected to the rib cage. Symptoms of
costochondrotis can mimic heart attack. Children weighed
down by back packs that are too heavy can develop strains
in their rib cages.  Read more about
costochondritis and
remedies that help.

2.        Back problems. As noted above, many studies have
found that heavy book bags can cause back pain, causing
children to lose time at school and miss out on school
activities. The Keck Study recommends that school districts
set limits on the amount of weight that children can carry in
back packs.  

3.        Neck Problems. Neck problems are caused by the
heaviness of the weight and also by the asymmetry of
carrying school bags on one shoulder.

4.        Posture problems. To overcompensate for the weight
of the backpack causes the shoulders to round and the back
to slump.  The physical pain and discomfort caused by this
bad posture are only part of the problem.  Some research
studies have discovered that
bad posture can also affect you
cognitively, actually impacting the decision-making process.
Lighten your child’s load. You may be helping him or her to
make better decisions as well.




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