Children

How heavy is my child’s backpack?

You may ask, what effects could spinal health possibly have on brain performance? In this instance it may appear that the good alignment and movement of the spine is actually vital in aiding the health of the brain.

It has been shown that the compulsions that are quintessentially generated by spinal movement is what charges the brain. Therefore when the spine does become stiff or even misaligned this then filters through to the brain. The brain is then consequently affected and this then also has the potential to reduce brain and body performance.

When children carry backpacks that exceed at least 10% of their initial body weight they are exposed to an imbalance in postural alignment, which has the potential to affect the overall health of the nervous system in the long run. A disruption in the alignment of the spine hinders the necessary communication between the brain and the body. To put it simply, children are open to developing spinal deformities.

Dr. Lauren Pienaar, a local chiropractor in Grahamstown, expresses her thoughts on this phenomenon as presented in an article by Health 24 as, “I do not believe that there is sufficient evidence to support the statement regarding the effect on the brain function either in literature or through examples of people like Stephen Hawking whose spine is far from perfect but has a remarkable brain!” She then goes on to say that, “These are people researching these areas but we are a long way from making any concrete conclusions or definite claims.”

As a professional, Dr. Pienaar shares her insights and her experiences with spinal misalignment and states that, “the spine protects and the spinal cord and provides an exit point for our nerves to supply the rest of the body. External stressors like poor posture, trauma, heavy backpacks, prolonged sitting or standing can most certainly result in suboptimal spinal function or even permanent damage. This may in turn cause well documented peripheral symptoms like reduced muscle strength, headaches, pain etc…”

The next question may be, what can be done? As a precaution, parents are advised to have their children assessed by a professional chiropractor. In doing so, one is able to determine and to detect whether the spinal supporting muscles are intact and that the brain is still able to receive healthy messages created from spinal movement.

Parents in the Grahamstown area have admitted to not being aware that a heavy backpack could cause such extensive damage. Mardi Nolands, a mother of three (ages 7, 11 and 15) says that her children ages 11 and 15 had always complained about the weight of their school bags but resorted to carrying the books required on a day to day basis. “What else are we supposed to do when the children’s school do not have lockers for them to store their books? My youngest son, is only 7 and already the load is becoming too much,” said Nolands.

“I think reducing the weight of backpacks and wearing them correctly is essential to preventing spinal and postural dysfunction. There are schools in Grahamstown who are trying to address this through the use of tablets however the poor posture that is sustained in using these devices is also problematic,” said Dr. Pienaar.

Another parent, with a son at Graeme College, said that she too was unaware of the effects that her sons heavy backpack my incur but thinks that the issuing of tablets is not only expensive but then also exposes children to the risk of being robbed for these devices.

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