This September, don’t fall victim to the weight of your backpack. Whether carrying one for school or recreation, the wrong backpack can result in poor posture, spinal compression and stress on the shoulders. This can lead to neck pain, tingling in the arms and increased vulnerability to back injury.
Our therapists have included below six features to look for when choosing a backpack. Although backpacks are an excellent way to carry books, binders, lunch, running shoes and other items for school or recreation, they can be a source of temporary discomfort and eventually serious soreness. Overloaded or improperly worn backpacks can place stress on the soft tissue in your neck and back and put an extra load on your muscles and joints.
- Lightweight materials – the pack should never weigh more than 7.8kg (17 lbs)
- Padded back – to reduce pressure and prevent the pack’s contents from digging into your back.
- Padded, contoured shoulder and chest straps – to help reduce pressure and balance the weight. Look for a backpack with thickly padded adjustable shoulder straps (2 inches wide) and an extra hip strap. If possible, adjust the shoulder straps so the bottom of the pack sits two inches above your waist.
- Waist belt or hip strap – to distribute some of the load to the pelvis. The waist belt sends the weight of your pack down through your legs which are equipped to carry increased weight, preventing you from getting tired.
- Compression straps – on the sides or bottom of the backpack to compress the contents of the backpack and stabilize the articles inside. Pack by weight, not size and always place the heaviest items closest to your back.
- Reflective material – to increase your visibility to others at night.
When wearing a backpack, stand tall with your head and neck in line with your shoulders and use both shoulder straps to help evenly distribute the weight of the pack. Using only one strap loads the entire weight of the pack over one shoulder, causing you to lean to one side. Over time, this abnormal posture can create lower and upper back pain as well as neck and shoulder strain.
Backpacks are designed to distribute the load evenly. Worn correctly and not overloaded, a backpack is supported by some of the strongest muscles in the body: the back and abdominal muscles. These muscle groups work together to stabilize the trunk and hold the body in proper balance and postural alignment.