Back to school

school-bag_2Children are back for a new term and the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) is encouraging parents across the country to check their children’s posture, as well as the design and contents of their school bag to help prevent school children suffering from back and neck pain. According to research1, over a third (33%) of parents say that their child has suffered from back or neck pain in the past.

When it’s time to get the kids ready to go back to school after the summer holidays, it’s often a race against the clock to get school uniforms, stationary and books ready on time. But now is also the perfect opportunity to check whether your child’s back will be protected during another jam-packed academic year.

BCA chiropractor, Tim Hutchful, comments: “I regularly see school children complaining of back or neck pain. Young people today can easily overfill their bags with things like mobile phones and tablets to add in – and slinging that over one shoulder while slouching can spell trouble for backs. A quick check of their bags and posture can help children to avoid painful back problems in the future.”

Tips for protecting your child’s back:

Best practice backpacks

We know that backpacks are a great way for schoolchildren to carry their books and stationary but the design of the bag and, crucially, how your child carries a bag can make a big difference to preventing back pain.

Worryingly, nearly a third (31%) of children carries a one-strapped bag which can load significant weight onto one shoulder, potentially causing long-term discomfort. Spend some time looking for a school bag that will help minimise the pressure on your child’s back when they’re carrying it. Look out for bags which can be carried on both shoulders, with adjustable straps which will hold the contents close to their back and distribute weight evenly. If your child insists on carrying a bag with one strap, encourage them to alternate which shoulder they carry it on and to carry it across their body.

What’s in the bag?

Whilst back pain can be caused by a number of different factors, overloaded school bags are a common trigger. When the BCA asked parents to identify what their child usually carries in their school bags the most common items comprised books (87%), lunchbox (59%), sports gear, including trainers (43%) and mobile phones (32%) – as a combination these can all weigh heavily in the bottom of a bag.

Try spending just a few minutes every evening helping your child pack their school bag. Use this time to ensure that your child is not packing unnecessary items for their day’s activities and to ensure that any weight is equally distributed in their school bag to reduce pressure on their back and neck. Top tip is to ensure that the heavier items are at the top not the bottom of the bag otherwise the rucksack can pull shoulders backwards creating discomfort and more imbalance.

Stand up straight!

Sitting, standing or walking with a bad posture can put unnecessary pressure on a child’s back. To help young people maintain a healthy posture, the BCA has developed ‘Straighten Up’ – a simple, three minute exercise programme for all ages, designed to help strengthen the spine and improve posture and help joints. To watch a video of the exercises you can do, please visit:

1 Research was commissioned in January 2014 on a sample of 1,001 UK parents of children aged up to 16 years old