Back pain is a very common issue in today's high stress society, and affects everyone at some point in their life, whether young or old. Most cases of back pain resolve themselves independently or with some light treatment, however there are a number of things we do in our daily lives that can exacerbate our susceptibility to back pain, most of which we don't even realise. Backpacks are one cause of this unnecessary pain, as they have the potential to encourage an awkward carrying posture, and tempt people into carrying much more than they can actually handle. Many people see the humble backpack as an opportunity to carry an unnecessary amount of items, as they think it won't put a strain on their bodies. The danger with this is that it results in the body having to compensate for the load, which has long term effects on posture, as well as the potential risk of a more immediate injury, such as a strain or even a slipped disc. The dangers and effects of a heavy backpack apply to both adults and children alike. While adults feel that they may be strong enough to load up their backpacks, this is not a good idea, in terms of the long term health of your joints and posture. Children use backpacks for school, and don't have the relevant knowledge to ensure that they are packing and carrying their backpacks correctly. It's up to us to ensure that they aren't at risk of injury. The tips outlined in this article don't only apply to children's school bags. Adults should also follow the same tips and advice so as to ensure that they are always safely carrying their backpacks, despite how strong you feel!
It is crucial to purchase a backpack that is sturdy, as this will help it bear the weight of the load, while also providing structure. An excessively soft backpack will not hold form, and this can affect our posture. The straps should be broad with sufficient padding, distributing the weight and taking some of the load off the shoulders.
The weight you carry in a backpack should ideally be less than 10% of your bodyweight. This is particularly important for children, as their bodies and muscular strength are not able to cope with heavier loads. Adults can usually carry above the 10% load, however it's important not to take anything that you don't really need.
The width of the actual backpack should not be wider than that of the chest. Again, this tip applies to both adults and children, however is particularly important for children, as their bodies are still developing. A child consistently carrying a backpack that is too large or heavy for them could potentially damage their joints and muscles long-term.
There is a good reason as to why backpacks have waist straps or belt. These straps help secure the bag in place when walking, and they have the important benefit of distributing the load more evenly across the body and taking unnecessary pressure off the back.
Packing your backpack correctly
When packing you or your child's backpack, there are a few simple rules to follow. Put the bulkiest and heaviest items at the bottom, as the lower centre of gravity will make it easier to carry, as well as providing a sturdier base for other items. The closer the heavy items are to the spine, the better. Never overload a backpack, even if there is still plenty of room inside. Just because there is space in the backpack, doesn't mean you should fill it, as you want to avoid carrying heavy weight as much as possible.
Plan your backpack loads
An effective method for ensuring bags aren't overpacked is to plan the contents of the backpack in advance. For example, you could keep certain things at work or school to avoid having to carry them to and from home. In the case of children, planning homework days for particular subjects means that they don't have to carry all of their heavy textbooks around each day. Planning in this way for your child and yourself can help make the morning routine smoother, as well as protecting your back.
Carrying your backpack correctly
There's no point in having the right backpack if it isn't carried in the correct way. It's vital that you use both straps; never sling one strap over a shoulder, as this will cause imbalances and injury. You should also use the waist straps, especially for heavier loads. Never carry the backpack lower than the small of your back, and adjust the straps to ensure it is sitting in the correct position.
Protecting your back from heavy loads
Following these tips and being sensible when lifting and carrying your backpack will save you from the troubles of experiencing back pain later. In addition, always set a good example for your children, and ensure you teach them the correct way to use a backpack. Despite how unfashionable they may think it is to carry a backpack in the way it was intended to be used, educating them will go a long way.