Heavy backpacks leading to kids’ back bone problems: Experts

New Delhi: Over 60 percent of schoolchildren with heavy back packs have been found to be suffering from back bone and muscle problems, neck pain and also slouched postures, according to health experts.

The experts have suggested that there is a need to tackle the issue because “medically children’s bones are soft up to the age of 18 and spine is not too strong to carry the weight on their tender shoulders”.

“Not just this, carrying backpacks over one shoulder is a wrong practise, as it makes muscles strain. The spine leans to the opposite side, stressing the middle back, ribs, and lower back more on one side than the other and this muscle imbalance can cause muscle strain, muscle spasm, and back pain,” said Satnam Singh Chhabra, director, Neuro Spine Department at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

He said a heavy backpack can pull on the neck muscles, contributing to headache, shoulder pain, lower back pain and neck and arm pain.

“A lot of times parents come to us complaining about their child’s wrong posture. Though we can’t do much about their heavy school bags, we advise parents to encourage their children to carry their schoolbags using both shoulders,” he said.

A.B Goregaonkar, professor and head of orthopaedics at Mumbai’s L.T.M. Medical College and Hospital, emphasised on reforms in the current education system to help children.

“There should be compulsory physical education period which will enable children to be fit and flexible,” he said.

“Apart from taking care of their nutrition like proteins, vitamin D, calcium, etc, we suggest children should participate in physical activity and should be encouraged to play outdoor games as this will help them strengthen their muscles and increase their stamina too.”

Citing a few measures, Arvind Kulkarni, head of Spine Scoliosis and Disc Replacement Centre at Bombay Hospital, said the material of the backpack should be light while adjustable shoulder straps on the back packs are a must.

“Padded back packs should be preferred, wheels so that the backpack can be pulled rather than carried would be an added advantage,” he said, adding that children should not carry the backpack low, near the hips, as that puts stress on the spine.