The health hazards of ill- designed and over- sized school backpacks is an important public health problem in India that is often glossed over by schools, parents and medical professionals. The immediate result of carrying unbalanced weight for too long is muscle soreness and strained ligaments. Backpacks lead to restricted movement of the spine and alter the fluid content of discs. This makes backpack wearers prime targets for herniated discs and arthritic spines.

There are simple signs of an overloaded schoolbag, which parents can watch out for.

These include:

  • Struggle in getting the backpack on or off
  • Pain while wearing the backpack
  • Tingling, burning or numbness in the back, shoulders or arms
  • Red marks or swelling around shoulders
  • Bending forward or leaning on one side while wearing backpack
  • In addition to the problems created by heavier backpacks, children could also get exposed to problems due to wrong posturing while working on computers.
  • The backpack problem can be handled through simple measures by schools, parents and schoolbag manufacturers.
  • When children go to buy a new backpack, they should take the books and articles that they usually carry to school.
  • The backpacks should be tried on with the typical weight that they usually carry, so that they will know for sure how it feels and if all the articles fit in.
  • Schools can provide storage space under the benches in classrooms and encourage the folder system.
  • Children should learn to pack sensibly and leave non- essential items behind.
  • They should organize articles in the backpack so that the heaviest items are closest to the back.
  • Lighter articles, like lunch or clothing can be placed on top of books or in compartments further away from the back.