Calling all Parents and Teachers!


Does anyone remember the days when it was considered cool to wear your school bag hanging off one shoulder? Is this still the case? I hope not!

Or how we would have our school bag on one shoulder and our PE kit on the other? Incredibly, I once went to school carrying one school bag, one PE kit, one bag for staying over at a friends’ (including a hairdryer, straighteners, makeup, shoes and several change of clothes as I never knew what I was going to wear until the night out!) and a biscuit tin within which I was to store my Home Economics baking disaster. Worse still, we didn’t have the luxury of lockers so the whole kit and caboodle had to be trailed from class to class. Nightmare!

So, enough of our childhood stories, let’s focus on the current generation of kids, most of whom (we hope) wear their school bags in the correct manner. But if they don’t I’m here to proffer some handy tips that will keep their spines, necks and shoulders safe.

School Bags

It’s hard to believe it but ‘Back to School’ is just around the corner!

Late summer is a manic time of year for families; with new uniforms to fit, shoes to buy and stationary to choose, it’s a hectic and costly few weeks!

Then of course, there's the new school bag. Your child will generally be more concerned with the latest school bag trend than with the health of their spine so the onus is on you to find the perfect, stylish bag that won’t cause problems down the line.

Carrying a heavy school bag puts your child at risk of multiple problems that could cause them stress, pain, numbness and tingling. Rounded shoulders, muscle strain, muscle spasm and back pain are all avoidable with the right school bag and proper posture.

Many children, especially of secondary school age, are required to carry a lot of items around school. As children grow their spines develop so it is essential we promote correct posture. By choosing a rucksack, which comes with lots of useful compartments and can be worn over both shoulders, your child can protect their developing bodies. Rucksacks distribute weight evenly, thus avoiding the damage that can be caused by snazzy briefcases and handbags.

But always remember that a rucksack must be worn correctly. It should never be overpacked or worn off one shoulder as this could cause spinal misalignment. Your child should never carry more than 10-15% of their body weight otherwise the weight will negatively affect their posture, potentially leading to back strain.

What to consider when school bag shopping

● Choose a sturdy but lightweight and ergonomic rucksack

● Remember, the bigger the bag the more your child can fit it in. This isn’t necessarily a good thing!

● Thick shoulder straps are ideal as they won’t dig into shoulders

● A padded back offers extra comfort and will ensure that pointy objects won’t poke your child!

● A waist belt will help distribute weight evenly across the body

● Avoid ‘cabin bags’ as they are rolling trip hazards

● Remind your child to wear their rucksack on both shoulders and not hanging around their waist


Using their school bag correctly

● Ensure they're only carrying the necessities for that day

● Encourage them to pack their bags with the heaviest items closest to their back

● Ask them to use a locker where and when they’re able to

● Encourage good posture and movement

● Tighten straps to ensure the bag hugs their body

● They should lift their bag using their leg muscles, not by bending over and pulling it toward them with extended arms.


What you can encourage their school to do

● Choose paperback over heavy, hardback books

● Allow students to use lockers between classes

● Educate students on how to avoid back and neck strain during the school day


Dealing with bag-related pain

Musculoskeletal pain and persistent back pain caused by heavy and incorrectly fitted school bags is responsible for most cases of pain in children and adolescents. So, how to treat it?

This kind of discomfort responds well to rest, anti-inflammatory medications and an exercise programme that includes hamstring stretching, abdominal strengthening and posture correction.

As a preventative measure an hour’s physical activity a day will build strong muscles and go some way to reducing bag-induced pain.

To conclude, it really pays to invest in a supportive rucksack and these days there are so many great ones to choose from. If your child can choose a bag that reflects their personality and fits the latest trends then they’re more likely to wear it wisely.

Please share this article with your friends, family and teachers and let's see a rise in well-fitting bags at school!

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Fellside Physiotherapy Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP)
Fellside Physiotherapy Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC)
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