Children, school bags, bad backs and a trumpet!
I have just come back from Sweden with my 10-year old son and we had to take his trumpet so he could practice for his music exam. And like all children he enjoys playing the instrument but doesn’t seem to enjoy carrying it. This task was often left to me!
It is clear that even with the rucksack straps on the case it is a heavy and bulky load to carry, not aided by my son being the size of a normal 10 year old. This means that the trumpet case is about the same length as his back and he has to lean forward to counterbalance the weight of the case.
Luckily he only has one trumpet lesson per week and has orchestra one day a week too so he is not carrying the instrument everyday, he also lives only 10 minutes walk away so it isn’t too bad for him.
I can’t see that he will have it any easier as he gets older and in 18 months he will go off to secondary school. There will be longer travelling times without mum or dad to help carry bags. The weight in books and sports kit will increase and maybe he will take up another instrument, and then there is more time spent on a computer doing his homework or playing Minecraft! All this doesn’t look good for his back and its development and for its long-term health.
As a chiropractor I do get a feeling of panic if my son has spent too long sitting or being inactive so I make sure that my son has regular breaks. We take the dog for a walk and we play a bit of tennis and if the weather is bad and he is playing the Wii I make sure that there is a hefty dose of Wii sports which is one of the best inventions in the world!
A study in the Archives of Disease in Childhood found that out of 1,403 Spanish children aged 12 to 17 61% had backpacks exceeding 10% of their body weight and these children were more likely to get back pain than children with lighter loads. There is also a Danish study of 10,000 twins that found that there was a four times increase in back pain as an adult if the child suffered from back pain.
Back pain in children can’t just be attributed to carrying school bags. Just like adults children’s lifestyles are complex, sitting at desks at school and sitting in front of computers to do homework or on social media sites or spending time online gaming. All of these can result in the back functioning badly and leave it prone to injuries.
All these behaviour patterns are even more of a concern when viewed with the increase in obesity in children and the lack of exercise that is associated with it. As with adults, activity is good for backs and health in general.
One on of my clichés is that we are hunter-gatherers and we need to replicate this lifestyle to some extent to stay healthy, whether it is diet or in activity. If you view lifestyle in this context it is clear what is good for us and what is bad. A strong fit and healthy adult is the result of childhood that promotes this.
Children should be active at regular intervals throughout the day, children should not be overweight, children shouldn’t be couch potatoes in the evening or at the weekend and shouldn’t spend too much time in front of a computer and children shouldn’t be carrying excessively heavy bags regularly. This is obviously the role of the parent!
Correcting this lifestyle is straight forward if you have decided that your children’s wellbeing is of paramount importance and as a parent myself I know that whilst my child is still a child I am responsible for him and I know best, even if he may have other thoughts!
Rucksacks are better than shoulder bags but are only advantageous when they are worn with both straps. Good rucksacks have hip belts but to get the most out of them they need to be packed properly.
Encourage your child to leave stuff at school in a locker and encourage your child to go through their bag regularly and take out what they don’t need. It is amazing what goes missing but can be discovered at the bottom of a school bag. Shoulder bags shouldn’t be too heavy as they can make the back struggle so split the load between a couple of bags that are carried in different ways.
Finally, if you want my advice as to what instrument is best for your child to prevent back pain and is the least bother for you, I would go for a harmonica!
If you have a child of school years and they are having back pain the Angel Wellbeing Clinic offers a FREE ASSESSMENT to children. We can also help with posture associated with the playing of musical instruments.