Satchel, knapsack or bag - which is healthier for the spine? | Back to school!

19 August 2020

Both the satchel and the knapsack have advantages and disadvantages.

The advantage of a satchel over a knapsack is that it is firmer, which allows for even weight distribution. The drawback of a satchel is usually narrow shoulder straps with wrong spacing. A typical satchel is also usually too wide for a child, so it is often worn not on the back, but in the hand like a briefcase, and this forces a scoliotic posture, i.e. a tendency to tilt the torso and curvature of the spine laterally.

The knapsack is usually more comfortable and lighter, and also has better-adapted shoulder straps. However, its back wall is often too soft, which makes ventilation difficult, and more importantly it adheres inappropriately to the back, often forcing reflex changes in the body posture (e.g. due to the fact that school supplies may hurt the child in the back).

The bag is not recommended as the weight rests on one shoulder. Carrying a bag changes the center of gravity of the body and forces an improper posture, which, if not corrected, may lead to permanent skeletal changes and back pain in the future.

Doctor Tomasz Rawo, specializing in pediatric orthopedics, advises what to consider when choosing a school bag for a child.

The best solution is to use knapsacks or satchels equipped with appropriately wide straps that can be adjusted, and its back wall of a reasonable hardness. The straps should be adjusted so that the bottom of the backpack is above the buttocks. Why is it so important? The center of gravity of the human body is in the area of the junction of the fifth lumbar vertebrae and the first sacral vertebrae, i.e. above the buttocks line. If the center of gravity of the backpack is more or less in the same place, the child will not have to change posture to compensate for the extra weight.

An additional fastening is also a good solution, e.g. fastening straps at the front of the chest or a hip belt.