Back to School
School is back in session and summer holidays coming to an end for grown ups too! It’s a great time to talk about how to carry all your belongings to and from school/work. Backpacks, shoulder bags, purses, luggage carriers are all wonderful inventions to help you get what you need from one location to another. Most importantly, how you pack and use your bag directly impacts the health of your back, neck and shoulders.
Let’s go through a few tips from the Ontario Chiropractic Association, and explain why these are important for your overall health.
Pack it light.
To start, only pack what you need for the day. Resist the urge to fit your whole life into your everyday bag. Bring only the items that are needed for that day. Constantly carrying overpacked bags is hard on your body.
Backpacks for children or adults should not exceed more than 10-15% of the persons body weight. Heavy items should be carried closer in to the body/back. By bringing most of the weight closer to the body you are reducing the strain on your body. Think about carrying groceries close to your torso or with your hands stretch out in front or to the side. Which is easier? Tucked in and close to your body!
Heavy packs worn on shoulders (think purses, backpack, shoulder bags) put strain on the upper back/neck/shoulder region. All of the nerves that feed yours arms exit from the neck/upper back and travel through the shoulder region. If bags carried here are too heavy they can put you at risk for crush injuries of the nerves in this area. This can can result in burning, numbness, weakness, or shooting pain down the arm.
Additionally, when carrying bags in the hands, traction can be applied to these same nerves (think pulling a rope in tug of war), if that rope or nerve snaps or is injured the same sensations may be felt down the arm.
Pack bags light, take multiple trips, or use bags with wheels to help avoid these types of injuries.
Wear it right
Backpacks were intended to be worn using both of their straps. Proper use reduces the strain on one shoulder. Shoulder bags and purses are a bit different as they can only be worn on one shoulder at a time. Make sure to wear shoulder bags across the body as this reduces the strain on the trunk/torso. Also, make sure with purses and shoulder bags to alternate the side on which you wear them on. By alternating you are making sure both sides are being used and not putting one side under more pressure than the other. Equally, by always carrying your bag on one shoulder you put yourself at risk for the crush nerve injuries mentioned in the previous point, as well as postural strains, postural alterations/function scoliosis.
Padding is everything
Bags should have padding on the shoulder straps. Padding in the area of the neck/shoulder will help decrease the risk of developing nerve or crush injuries in this area. Ensure the padding is thick/adequate and it positioned on the tops of the shoulders.
Use a backpack with lumbar support and stomach straps. Stomach straps, when used correctly help to disperse the weight of the backpack to other parts of the body, taking the strain off of the upper back.
Backpack on Wheels
When possible use a bag with wheels when carrying/packing for multiple days, big trips, or days where you require excess materials.
Call a Chiropractor
If you experience any pain in the neck, shoulders, arms, midback or low back when going back to school, work, or using a new bag get yourself checked out by a regulated health professional or doctor.
All things considered, your chiropractor is an expert on spinal health and can help you treat any underlying issues or new issues that arise.
For more information on proper backpack and bag usage please refer to: