In one study with American students, 6 out of 10 students ages 9 to 20 reported chronic back pain related to heavy backpacks. Among students who carried backpacks weighing 15% of their body weight or less, only 2 in 10 reported pain.
In a study on the effect of backpack education on student behavior and health, nearly 8 out of 10 middle-school students who changed how they loaded and wore their backpacks reported less pain and strain in their backs, necks, and shoulders.
A heavy backpack carried on the back can….
- Cause rounding of the shoulders
- Put stress on the neck muscles contributing to headaches and neck pain.
- Injure the neck, shoulder, back cause numbness in arms, and reduce blood flow to the surrounding muscles and tissues.
- Create poor posture by encouraging the carrier to lean forward. Reducing their ability to maintain balance and restrict movement.
- Distort the natural curve in the middle and lower back, which leads to muscle strain along with irritation of the spine joints and muscles.
A heavy backpack carried on one shoulder can…
- Lead to muscle strain, forcing muscles to compensate for the uneven weight.
- Cause the spine to lean forward the opposite side placing stress on the mid-back and lower back. This may increase the likelihood of the back problems later in life.
- A scientific experiment found that carrying a backpack alters the mobility of spinal bones, leading to restricted movement- a risk factor for back pain. (spine 1999)
- The ergonomics research group at Queen’s University noted that choosing the right backpack with the right attributes can make the difference between experiencing shoulder, neck or back pain and being pain-free
Choosing the Right Backpack
1. Choose a backpack that is proportionate to body size and not larger than what is needed. The top of the backpack should not extend higher than the top of the shoulder, and the bottom should not fall below the top of the hipbone.
2. Select a backpack made of lightweight material (vinyl or canvas instead of leather).
3. The shoulder straps should be at least two inches wide, adjustable, and padded. An S-Shaped shoulder strap also is more ergonomic for fit. Ensure that they do not cut into or fit too snugly around the arm and armpits. Poorly designed shoulder straps can dig deep into the muscles and put strain on the nerves.
4. A backpack should have a padded back or added protection and comfort
5. A hip strap or waist belt helps to effectively redistribute as much as 50 to 70 per cent of the weight off the shoulders and spine onto the pelvis, equalizing the strain on the bones, joints, and muscles.
6. Choose a backpack that has several individual pockets instead of one large compartment, this will help to distribute the weight evenly and keep contents from shifting.
7. Explore other backpack options such as one with wheels and a pull handle for easy rolling.
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