It's that time of year again where all the kids are heading back to school so there's no better time to freshen up on proper techniques to reduce the risk of neck, shoulder and back pain that comes with wearing a backpack in an improper way and start developing better backpack wearing habits.
First and foremost, when wearing a backpack, you should always use both straps, there are two for a reason! When only using one strap over the shoulder you are putting an unnecessary amount of pressure on one side and causing an imbalance. With this imbalance it throws off your posture when you are walking and can lead to unilateral neck and upper back pain. Along the same lines, if the backpack has a chest strap or waist strap use it! These straps help distribute the weight load to the hips and help relieve shoulder pressure. These cross straps help reduce the swaying of the pack as well.
Up next, avoid wearing the backpack too low! Studies show that your pack should only be 2-4 inches below your waist at the maximum, staying at the waist or slightly above is optimal. With the low positioning it puts unwanted stress and strain on your shoulders as well as your lower back. With the long straps you lean forward more often to compensate leading to low back pain. When the straps are longer there is more swaying as well leading to instability and shoulder soreness. It may be a little more difficult to get your backpack on with the tightened straps but your shoulders and back will thank you in the long run! Looking for backpacks with wide and padded shoulder straps should be a focal point as well.
It is suggested that the child's backpack shouldn't be more than anywhere from 10% (on the low end) to 20% of their body weight. Any more weight than this and we start to run into postural issues than can be long lasting if continued with poor backpack wearing technique. Along with the total weight, make sure you are packing the bag so that the heaviest objects are closer to the body, this helps with weight distribution and overall stability.
Backpack length and width are relative important as well. When looking for a backpack for yourself or your child the pack shouldn't be wider than the wearer's torso. Some overhang is fine but we don't want to get to excessive. Length is equally important. You want the backpack to sit from about two inches below the shoulder and just above the waist for the best results, certainly not sagging down way below the belt level.
Following these tips for wearing a backpack properly, as well as receiving routine chiropractic care, will ensure that you or your children will reduce the risk of back, shoulder and neck pain as well as help maintain proper posture for years to come. Make sure you only pack what you need and don't overload, thanks for reading!