However, what we do know about back pain is, the majority of back problems at any age result from the effects of poor posture adding up over time. Definitely, improper backpack load can negatively effect posture. A heavy load in a backpack worn improperly will cause the body to make improper adjustments to compensate for the weight. This includes a stooped forward, rounded shoulder posture and forward protrusion of the head and neck. This posture as well as ill- fitting straps can cause back and neck pain, can effect the person’s ability to breathe and can lead to arm and hand numbness and pain from impingement of nerves coursing from the neck.
Research-based guidelines have been developed for backpacks. The backpack should not be too large, rather it should run from the shoulder level to the waist level. Shoulder straps should be adjusted to this level and the backpack should fit snugly against the back. Well- padded straps to prevent nerve compression as well as a padded back to prevent objects from digging into the back are key. A waist strap is immensely helpful at redistributing some of the weight from the spine and shoulders to the hips, diminishing the load on the shoulders. Choose a lightweight material like canvas over heavier materials like leather.
A backpack should weigh less than 10% of the carrier’s body weight for kids less than 14 years of age. Older children and adults can safely carry up to 15% of their body weight in a properly – fitted backpack. Place heaviest objects closer to the spine to keep the centre of gravity as close as possible to the centre of the body.
When putting a backpack on, be sure to bend the knees to lift, not your waist. Hold the pack close to your body while putting one arm in and then the other, and always wear both shoulder straps.
Development of good postural habits begins in childhood and with growing children being the primary wearers of backpacks, it is important to practice backpack safety when choosing and wearing a backpack!
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