Backpacks are an essential item used daily by people everywhere – including students, working professionals, travelers, and outdoor enthusiasts. Typically, as far as a practical tool for carrying one’s belongings, many look to the backpack as their lifeline when leaving home. However, if filled too heavy or worn incorrectly, backpacks can become a major source of back pain and injury. In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported that more than 7,000 people per year visit the emergency room as a result of backpack-related injuries.
Don’t give up on your backpack just yet! There are several steps that you follow to minimize the risk of pain and injury from backpacks, which are listed below.
Choose the Right Backpack
Choose a smaller backpack made of lightweight materials, such as canvas. Backpacks made of heavier materials, such as leather, add unnecessary weight. Also, be sure to purchase a backpack that’s proportionate to the size of your body. The bigger the backpack, the more tempting it may be to fill it. Lastly, choose a backpack with several pockets and compartments. Additional pockets and compartments will encourage you to stay organized while allowing the weight of your items to be properly distributed throughout the bag as well.
Weigh Your Backpack
Next time you’re packing up your belongings, put your backpack on the scale to see how much weight you’re carrying around. Heavy backpacks can cause the spinal discs to compress. According to both the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), you shouldn’t carry more than 10% of your body weight in a backpack. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds your backpack should weigh no more than 15 pounds. If you must carry more weight, look into a backpack with wheels.
Wear Both Straps
While it can be quick and convenient to throw your backpack over your shoulder, carrying the weight on only one side of your body can cause the spine to curve and encourage poor posture. Wearing both straps tightened snug to the body will allow the weight of your bag to evenly distribute and help to alleviate pain. Backpacks with padded straps are the best choice to avoid pinching nerves in your neck and shoulders.
Often, it is an accumulation of smaller items, rather than one large item, that causes back pain. It can be tempting to stuff your backpack full, but you’re better off packing just the essentials for the sake of your back. Clean out your backpack periodically to avoid carrying items you don’t need. Also, make sure you’re packing your heaviest items closest to your back and arrange items so they do not slide around. Once again, utilizing all of your backpack’s compartments helps more than you think.
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