We’ve all worn a backpack at one point or another and some of us even wear them every day. They’re a convenient accessory and make it easy for people of all ages to carry everything they may need throughout their day while keeping their hands free. Unfortunately, backpacks have been shown to cause damage to the spine. To learn how and why backpacks can be harmful to the spine, as well as what you can do to avoid this, continue reading.
How Backpacks Affect Back Pain
While backpacks are very convenient and even necessary for most school students, they can have detrimental effects on the spines of their wearers. This can lead to back pain both as an adolescent and in later life as an adult.
Many studies have been conducted to determine the effects of backpacks on the spine of school-age children, as they spend the majority of their time wearing heavy backpacks.
While being in school subjects children to many factors that can contribute to the development of poor posture habits, backpacks seem to have the greatest impact. 40-70% of children in developed countries are affected by wearing backpacks that are too heavy for their body weight. This is an issue that can cause back pain and spine deformities to develop in adolescents, a condition known as “backpack syndrome”. Backpack syndrome is characterized by abnormal body posture caused by backpack wearing that can lead to headaches, fatigue, and pain in the cervical and lumbar areas of the spine.
While some organizations disagree on how much weight one should carry in their backpack in relation to their body weight, but most authors agree that the weight of a backpack shouldn’t exceed more than 10% of the wearers body weight. Any heavier than this can affect a person’s spinal posture and gait.
Wearing a too heavy backpack causes the wearer to lean forward in order to balance the weight on their back, resulting in reduced lumbar lordosis and increased thoracic kyphosis. Because students usually need to wear their backpacks every day, this posture can become a habit that is maintained even when the backpack isn’t worn. This is especially detrimental to school-age children because they are affected at a time when they’re still developing and growing.
This is also a major issue because studies have shown that children who experience back pain will likely experience back pain as adults as well. Is there anything that can be done to make wearing a backpack safer?
Protecting Your Back While Wearing a Backpack
Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to make wearing a backpack safer for your child, and even for you as an adult.
Mind Your Backpack’s Weight
As mentioned before, the results of many studies show that a backpack should not be heavier than 10% of the body weight of the person wearing it. For children, parents should closely monitor the weight of their backpacks to ensure that they aren’t carrying too much. Leaving textbooks at school or home when they’re not needed may help, along with using electronic versions of books.
Wear Both Straps of Your Backpack
When carrying your backpack, wear both straps and keep them snug, but not too tight. Avoid wearing your backpack slung over only one shoulder, as this will unevenly distribute the weight of your bag and increase pressure on your spine, which could cause back pain.
Maintain Proper Posture
In addition to keeping your backpack to 10% or less of your body weight and using both straps of your backpack, you should always maintain good posture while wearing the backpack. Keep your shoulders back and your ears above your shoulders.
Wear a Waist Strap
If your backpack has a waist strap, wearing it will help in distributing the weight of your backpack, reducing the weight and strain placed on your spine.
Pack Items Strategically
When packing your items in your backpack, place heavier items in the lower part of the backpack, and place them in a way that will keep them close to your body.
Lift Your Bag Properly
Finally, when lifting your backpack, you need to use proper lifting technique , as you would for any other heavy object. Face your backpack, bend at your knees, lift with your legs, and put on one strap at a time. Never throw your backpack over one shoulder.
At the end of the day, it’s important to listen to your body. If you start to feel back pain while wearing your backpack, this means you’re backpack is too heavy.
Come See Us At The Spine Institute Northwest!
At the Spine Institute Northwest, we want you to know how to keep your back safe so you can live back pain-free! Conveniently located in the Seattle area, our team of dedicated surgeons is available to guide you to a more mobile life!
Contact us today at (888) 712-0318, or visit our site to set an appointment for a free MRI review. We offer a total care package that allows us to make a personalized plan to help you get started on your journey toward a pain-free life.
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