Backpacks are invaluable in today’s world – allowing us to carry everything we need wherever we go. But as great as backpacks are, the fact is they can cause real damage if they are not carried correctly. It is possible to carry more weight than you should and to carry backpacks in ways that are not healthy. From children to the elderly, and everyone in between, everyone should know how to carry a backpack safely.
How Backpacks can Hurt Your Back
A recent article on NBC News discussed the health concerns that backpacks present, discussing the various studies that have shown the damage they can cause. As the article noted, most everyone uses a backpack at one time or another. They are simply too useful to do otherwise. But research has demonstrated that they can hurt the back significantly, especially in children.
The back injuries that a backpack can cause include:
The spine is made up of vertebrae separated by spinal discs. The discs provide cushioning and flexibility in the spine. But the discs in your spine are only capable of carrying so much weight. When a backpack is too heavy, it can lead to disc compression and possibly tearing of the disc.
Backpacks that are carried incorrectly, like when they are slung over one shoulder only, can cause misalignments in the spine. If the misalignment involves enough pressure, like from a heavy backpack, or is repeated daily, it can lead to a pinched nerve.
Carrying a backpack over one shoulder day after day will eventually cause your body to alter its alignment and your muscles to become imbalanced. Muscle imbalances can cause a cascade of problems, including altering the way you walk and increasing wear on your spine.
How to Carry a Backpack Properly
Backpacks can be used safely, you just need to take the proper steps. These include:
1. Do not carry too much weight.
The recommended percentage of your body weight when using a backpack ranges from 10% – 15%. Someone that weighs 100 lbs should carry a backpack weighing no more than 15 lbs. Ideally you should keep it around 10%. The more you go over the recommended weight, the more risk of injury to your back.
2. Use both straps.
Backpacks are designed to be carried using a strap over each shoulder. Using both straps distributes the weight evenly across your shoulders, minimizing the risk of excessive wear or injury.
3. Adjust the backpack properly.
The straps of your backpack should be pulled snug, but not too tight. If your backpack includes a belt or additional straps, use them – especially if you are carrying a lot of weight.
4. Only take what you need.
It is easy to accumulate items in your backpack without realizing how much you have. Try to examine what is in your pack on a regular basis to ensure you are only taking what you need.
5. Use rolling bags for heavy loads.
If you really need to carry more weight, invest in a bag with wheels. Rolling backpacks or other rolling bags can allow you to carry significantly more weight in comfort and safety.
6. Pay attention to your child’s backpack.
If you have one or more children, it is important to train them how to use backpacks safely – and to check them from time to time.
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