Whether walking or hiking, backpacks are often seen as the most convenient way to carry any extra load. While generally extremely useful, an overweight and improperly worn backpack can result in chronic back pain, neck and shoulder pain, poor posture, and numbness in your hands and arms.
A reported 6 out of 10 American students between the ages of 9 and 20 experience chronic back pain related to improper use or overweight of their backpack. Excess stress from incorrect backpack fitting and posture can have negative long-term effects and leave your spine more susceptible to injuries. Therefore, lightening your backpack to take some load off or improving your posture are easy solutions to better your spinal shape and health.
Below you’ll find a list of tips to help make sure you’re wearing and fitting your backpack as comfortably and safely as possible!
Make sure you’re not carrying any more than 15 percent of your body weight in your backpack!
Having too heavy of a load on your shoulders can hinder your upper limb performance by trapping nerves and reducing blood supply to your soft tissues. Reducing the physical load you’re carrying is one of the easier ways to reduce the stress put on your shoulders and spine.
Find a backpack that’s as long as your torso
If the distance between your shoulder straps and hips is too short, the weight of your pack can dangle and stress your shoulders. If the distance is too long, you’ll find it uncomfortable to wear your backpack for too long. The bottom of your pack should rest right in the curve of you lower back, not more than four inches below your waistline.
Adjust your shoulder straps properly
If your straps don’t match the contours of your neck and shoulders, they can pinch and bruise those same areas. The bottoms of your straps should rest at least a hands-width below your armpit so they don’t ride up and press against your skin, and that your arms can move freely. Make sure you’re wearing both shoulder straps as well to help evenly distribute the weight of your backpack.
Keep your posture in check
Bearing weight on your shoulders can exaggerate or worsen any postural errors you may already have. Making sure you keep your back straight, shoulders back and dropped, and head up will help prevent any spinal misalignments and/or back injuries!
Keep the load close to your body
The closer the load from a backpack is to the spine, the easier it is for the body to carry. Make sure to back the heaviest items in the pouch of the backpack closest too the spine, and make sure to teach your child to do the same.
What to watch out for in Kids
When it comes to backpack fitting and kids, many kids backpacks are to long for their torso, too wide for their small frame or too heavy. Make sure your child uses both backpack straps and remember's to stand up tall. If you child complains of:
1. Tingling in the arms and hands
2. Red Marks on the shoulder
3. Complaints of low back pain
Their backpack is likely too heavy. Backpacks made specifically for children have a shorter torso and smaller frame that is more comfortable for a child to wear.
Picking out the Right Backpack For You
In case you’re looking to buy a new backpack, here are some qualities you should consider for optimal comfort and ergonomic functionality:
1. Find a backpack with wide padded shoulder straps. The wider and more padded the better.
2. Waist and chest straps help redistribute pressure, shifting the load somewhere other than just the shoulders. Such straps are helpful when you start loading up bigger items such as heavy textbooks and laptops
3. Padding on the back of your bag can help keep items from digging into you
4. Look for a durable bag with reinforced seams, sturdy zippers and water-resistant material to reduce the effects of natural wear-and-tear.
5. Having a backpack with a large U-shaped opening can help make items in your bag more accessible and packing easier, making your things less likely to move around and change your stability.