Health: Schoolbags carry risk of back pain

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Heavy bags carried by secondary schoolchildren are contributing to a back pain epidemic, a new survey has shown.

As many as 80 per cent of children were carrying too much weight in poorly designed bags, according to interim results from a national survey carried out by the National Back Pain Association.

The discovery matches figures from the Department of Social Security which show that back pain sickness absence doubled in the 1970s and doubled again in the 80s before rising from 59 million days in 1988 to 117 million in 1996-97. It found 60 per cent of the population suffered back pain at some time while 30 per cent would go on to develop a chronic problem.

The NBPA study of 1,000 secondary schoolchildren across the country found that 92 per cent of pupils said their schools did not encourage bags to be carried evenly across both shoulders while 40 per cent of secondary schools did not provide lockers. In some cases bags of up to 25kg were reported, more than 60 per cent of bodyweight, with 11-12 year olds carrying more than 20 per cent of their bodyweight most at risk.

Experts believe that the weight limit before injury is 20 per cent of bodyweight, up to 30 per cent is considered potentially dangerous.