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Backpack Ergonomics
Pack it light, wear it right.

Backpack ergonomics: wear them light, wear them right.

Simple tips to properly choose, pack, and wear a backpack for both children and grownups in order to promote spinal health.

A heavy backpack can injure the back, neck, and shoulders causing numbness in the arms and reducing blood flow to the surrounding muscles and tissues. They also create poor posture by encouraging the carrier to lean forward and round their shoulders, which reduces the ability to maintain balance and restricts movement.

To prevent back and neck pain from an overloaded backpack it is important to know the correct way to choose, pack, and carry a backpack.

Choosing the right backpack.

  1. Choose a backpack that is proportionate to your body size and not larger than what is really needed. The top of the backpack should not extend higher than the top of the shoulders, and the bottom should not fall below the top of the hipbone (i.e. try not to let it hang over your butt).
  2. Select a backpack made of lightweight material such as vinyl or canvas instead of leather. I know leather looks and wears nice but it comes with a price in more ways than one. :)
  3. The shoulder straps should be at least two inches wide, adjustable, and padded. Ensure that they do not cut into or fit too snugly around the arms and armpits. Poorly designed shoulder straps can dig deep into muscles causing strain and pinched nerves.
  4. A backpack should have a padded back for added protection and comfort.
  5. A hip strap or waist belt helps to effectively redistribute as much as 50 to 70 percent of the weight off the upper body and onto the pelvis, equalizing the strain on the bones, joints, and muscles.
  6. Choose a backpack that has several individual pockets instead of one large compartment. This will help to distribute the weight evenly and keep contents from shifting.
  7. Explore other options such as a backpack style carrier with wheels and a pull handle for easy rolling.

Packing your backpack.

  1. Backpacks should never exceed 15 percent of your body weight (i.e. a 90 pound child should not carry more than 14 pounds in a backpack). For elementary school children try to keep the weight in their packs below 10 percent of their body weight.
  2. Ensure the weight is evenly distributed in the backpack.
  3. Pack the heaviest items closest to the body as this reduces strain as weight is closer to the centre of gravity of the body.
  4. Do not overload the backpack and only carry items that are needed.
  5. Pack odd shaped items on the outside so they do not dig into your back or side.

Carrying your backpack.

  1. Wear both shoulder straps at the same time and adjust them so the pack fits snugly to the body. Be sure it does not dangle loosely to the side. You should be able to slide your hand between the backpack and your back. This positioning will reduce strain on your back, shoulders, and neck.
  2. Using the hip strap or waist belt reduces strain on your back and transfers some of the load to your hips and pelvis.
  3. A backpack that is too low will cause you to lean forward and carry the full weight on the upper back.

Remember to Pack it Light and Wear it Right. Injuries resulting from improper lifting and carrying of a heavy load can become chronic and can impact your quality of life. If you experience pain that lasts more than two or three days, call for an appointment to have it looked at.

Dr. Evans is a chiropractor dedicated to providing clients with natural, effective, health care in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.

Dr. Ormond's 10 General Tips for a Healthy Back

  1. Exercise regularly.
  2. Follow a healthy diet.
  3. Maintain good posture as much as possible.
  4. Do an active warm up before activity and stretch after.
  5. Don't overload your backpack or shoulder bag.
  6. Stretch your legs and back after each hour of sitting.
  7. Never cradle the phone between your neck and shoulder.
  8. Sleep on your back or side, not on your stomach.
  9. Invest in a good chair, pillow and mattress. It's worth it!
  10. Have regular spinal check-ups.

Back Problem Warning Signs

  • Leg pain with numbness, tingling, and/or weakness.
  • Back or leg pain with coughing or sneezing.
  • Difficulty standing up after sitting for any period of time.
  • Stiffness in the morning that decreases when you move around.
  • Pain in your hip, buttock, thigh, knee, or foot.
  • Inability to turn or bend to each side equally.
  • Unbalanced posture, when your head, neck, or shoulder may be higher on one side than the other.
  • Pain which prevents you from sleeping well.
  • Pain that persists or worsens after 48 hours.

Pointing clients in the right direction towards a healthy, pain free, and productive lifestyle is important to Dr. Mitch Ormond. Treating most conditions is the easy part, its following through with the decision to get a problem taken care of that is the hard part.

Call 416.598.4999, email Dr. Mitch Ormond, or drop by the clinic for more information. You can get specific directions to the clinic by filling out our Mapquest® form.

Find out more about how we can help with your individual health care needs. Appointments recommended.

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