KW Chiropractor discusses How to Wear a Backpack Without Pain


Backpack related injuries are common and can lead to long-term problems. Fortunately, they are also easily preventable. More than 50% of youth have experienced backpack related back pain by the end of their teen years, and research indicates that the cause may be the improper use of backpacks. When carried improperly, heavy backpacks can lead to: numbness in the arms, reduced blood flow, poor posture, headaches, neck pain, and muscle strain.

When choosing a backpack, select one that is proportional to the body. The bag should not be larger than what is needed. The top of the bag should extend no higher than the top of the shoulders, and the bottom should not extend lower than the hip bones. Select a bag that is made of lightweight material, has padded shoulder straps that are at least 2 inches wide, and a padded back. A backpack with a hip strap and several additional pockets will allow for effective redistribution of weight. A waist strap can help redistribute up to 50-70% of the weight of the backpack from the shoulders and spine, to the pelvis, equalizing the strain on the bones, joints and muscles.

A backpack should not exceed 15% of the carrier’s weight. The weight should be evenly distributed, with the heaviest items closest to the body, and oddly shaped items on the outside. Always wear both shoulder straps, adjusted so that the backpack fits snugly, and make good use of the waist strap. You should be able to slide one hand between your back and the backpack. When worn properly, the backpack should not slide from side to side while walking. A backpack that is packed too heavy or worn too low will cause the carrier to lean forward, transferring the full weight of the backpack to the upper back. Finally, when putting on your backpack, be sure to use proper lifting techniques, avoiding bending or twisting with the back.

Have a healthy and happy return to school!

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