It only makes sense that we delve into the backpack safety essentials with the school season upon us. Whether it’s your child that wears a backpack every day or you carry one frequently, these best backpack practices are universal.
Poor backpack design, weight distribution and carrying does not only yield short-term discomfort, but can also lead to long-term pains and spinal health issues. These pressures can compromise the natural alignment of your spine, placing stress on the back, neck, shoulders, muscles and other areas.
Don’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders! Drastically reduce backpack discomfort as well reduce injury and chronic conditions with these tips:
The Right Bag
Certain features or ergonomic designs of a backpack could make all the difference for your spine:
• Above all, chose a backpack that is in proportion with your body
• Look for padding on the back and shoulder straps
• Adjustable waist and chest straps are ideal in that they redistribute some weight onto the pelvis, easing the strain on back and shoulders
• Opt for a bag featuring multiple front and side pockets to balance out the load; this easier accessibility will aid in minimizing unnecessary strained movements like twisting, reaching and digging
• A bag made out of lightweight material like vinyl or canvas will decrease its overall weight
Pack it Light
When it comes to your backpack, you should not be carrying more than 15% of your body weight. Kids should not be carrying more than 10% of their body weight. Pack smart:
• Try to distribute packing across many different compartments of the backpack
• Be cognizant of unnecessary items from your bag and make a rule of ONLY carrying essentials
• Opt for a smaller, compact water bottle that you refill throughout the day instead of a large one
• Go for mini travel-sized pieces like personal care items (hairbrushes, creams) and pencil cases
• Figure out an efficient system for binders or notebooks, such as depositing them into a main binder at home so you have a lighter load on the go
• Organize your backpack on a weekly basis to avoid items piling up and being forgotten
• Pack heavier items towards the back of the bag so they are closest to your body
Wear it Right
Carrying yourself well also applies to backpack wearing! Ease the wear and tear on your spine with specific carrying techniques:
• Walk with a straight posture and avoid hunching/leaning forward as much as possible
• Always wear both shoulder straps of the bag; never tote a backpack around on just one shoulder as this yields strained balance and posture
• Carry the heaviest items closest to your body to prevent stress on the spine
• If the bag features a waist or chest belt, try to use these this for extra support
• Adjust the straps so that the backpack fits securely and comfortably against you
Ontario Chiropractic Association. Pack it Light. Wear it Right [Fact sheet]. Toronto, ON: Ontario Chiropractic Association.
Ontario Chiropractic Association. Pack it Light. Wear it Right on the go [Brochure]. Toronto, ON: Ontario Chiropractic Association.