Heavy schoolbags may cause back pain, not scoliosis

September 10, 2021
Heavy schoolbags may cause back pain, not scoliosis

Many people have previously believed heavy schoolbags to be the cause of scoliosis, a curvature of the spine often diagnosed in adolescents. Research has, however, debunked this as a heavy schoolbag cannot structurally change a child’s growing spine. The use of heavy bags incorrectly or for a prolonged period will instead cause other forms of spinal problems such as back pain, bad posture, muscle weakness, and fatigue, said Dr. Lim Sze Wei, Consultant Orthopaedic, ALTY Orthopaedic Hospital, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Adolescents who suffer from mild back pain are then more likely to have chronic back pain as adults, research proves.

In Malaysia, studies suggest that scoliosis affects 2-3% of the population – usually teenagers from the ages of 10 to 17 during their growth spurt. The curves of the spine are often C-or S-shaped; anything that measures more than 10 degrees on an X-ray is considered scoliosis.

Dr. Lim clarified that scoliosis is a largely idiopathic disease which means that there is no known cause. Non-idiopathic scoliosis is usually a side effect of other diseases such as neuromuscular conditions, connective tissue disorders, and genetic conditions. These scoliosis cases can be inherited genetically and are seen to present first in younger children; of this, girls stand a higher chance of developing scoliosis than boys.

Dr. Lim went on to warn that symptoms are not always obvious in mild cases; thus, it is important that parents check their children from time to time, especially for:

  • A difference in height or position of the shoulders, shoulder blades, or hips – for example, one shoulder seems to be consistently drooping below the other
  • Position of the head, off-centre from the body
  • [Using] ‘Adam’s Forward Bend – a child is asked to bend forward with both palms between the knee; any disparity in the rib cage or other deformities along the back could be a sign of scoliosis.

If there are suspicious changes, parents are recommended to consult their medical practitioner without delay.

Read: Pay attention to spine ergonomics to avoid neck and back pain

For mild scoliosis, nonsurgical treatment methods such as exercise or bracing is recommended to help slow or stop the progression of the curve, as well as relieve the back pain associated with the condition. Patients using these methods must be monitored throughout their lives to ensure that the condition does not worsen.

For severe scoliosis cases that interferes with a patient’s quality of life, surgery is necessary to correct the misshapen curvature of the spine. Advances in surgical methods have thankfully made for a safe and effective procedure, with much shorter recovery times than were associated with scoliosis surgery in the past.

With routine check-ups and timely intervention, conditions like scoliosis can be managed better, and ensure a better quality of life for the child.

Category: Education, Features

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