Whether you are a parent prepping your little one for the first day of school, a busy college student hauling textbooks through campus, or a working professional that carries a backpack on your commute—there is no denying that “book bags” are a very practical way to carry your important belongings.
However, while backpacks may make carrying heavier loads a little easier, they can come with a few potential caveats, especially if you don’t use your that bag correctly. It may seem strange, but there are actually a lot of people who don’t use their backpack properly.
What happens when your backpack is too heavy or isn’t being used correctly? It can lead to:
- Muscle injury
- Joint pain
- Neck discomfort or injury
- Misalignment in the back
- Shoulder pain
- Ongoing posture problems
That is quite a lot from one little backpack. This is why it is so important to pay attention to how you, and your kids, are using their backpacks. Here at our chiropractic office, we see back and shoulder pain from backpack issues all of the time. It is an unfortunately common type of injury, but one that is fairly easy to avoid and remedy. It all starts with making sure that you are using your backpack correctly, and that you visit your chiropractor if you start to notice pain and stiffness in the upper back and shoulders.
We never want to see our chiropractic patients struggle with backpack related pain and injuries, which is why prevention is always the first and most important step. Here are a few tips to help avoid injury while carrying a backpack.
- Don’t Overload Your Bag- This is one of the most important things to remember when it comes to backpack. The number one reason people are getting pain, tightness or discomfort while using their backpack is because they overload their bag. Backpacks should not weigh more than 10% of your overall body weight.
- Always Use Backpacks With Padded Shoulder Straps- A heavy backpack, even one that is within your approved weight restrictions, can cause pain and discomfort if you don’t have the right straps on your backpack. Heavily padded straps are wider and can help distribute weight more evenly as you carry your bag. This extra cushioning, will also put less pressure on your trapezius and prevent any pinching while you are carrying your bag on your back.
- Use Both Shoulder Straps- This is one can be slightly more difficult to enforce if you are dealing with little kids. However, you should never use a backpack with only one strap on it. This is important even if the backpack is only at 10% of your overall body weight. Carrying a backpack on one shoulder only can cause a misalignment and can contribute to neck and shoulder pain. Use both straps to ensure that the backpack and all of its weight is evenly distributed throughout your bodies, this will ensure all of the muscles and supporting muscles are being utilized to manage the extra load.
- Always Put On Your Backpack Correctly- Another one of the most common ways that people injury themselves while using their backpack, is actually by bending over and grabbing their bag to put it on. When you are picking up your backpack from the ground or low table or bench, always bend at the knees, not the waist, to pick up your bag. This can cause extra stress on your low back or cause serious injury if you aren’t careful.
- Check the Positioning of Your Bag- When your backpack is incorrectly positioned, it can cause extra stress and strain on your shoulders and your neck. You should always place the backpack evenly on the muscles of your midback. The American Chiropractic Association states that a backpack should never be placed, or hang, more than four inches below the waistline. The straps should be shortened and fit tight, but comfortably so that the back of the bag is resting comfortably on your mid back, not drooping down low.
A backpack can be a much safer alternative to briefcases, shoulder bags or messenger bags, but you need to make sure you are using them appropriately in order for them to work as they should. Keep these tips in mind, and always call a chiropractor or another doctor if you are experiencing pain and discomfort in the area where you are carrying your bag. If you have more questions about proper backpack use, neck pain, or back pain, contact the Laurel area experts here at McAuliffe Chiropractic Office at 301-776-0755 or make an appointment online.