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The Dangerous Pull of Backpacks

By Chris Brown

Throwing your day's supplies into a backpack is a convenient way to take stuff out the door with you. However, that daily backpack may be compromising your back health without your knowledge. Oftentimes, back pain from improper packs doesn't arise until damage to the spine or back has already occurred. Learning about bag health can prevent injury and keep your spine in top shape.  

What Bags Do to Your Spine Health?

The back is built to support significant weight when in an upright posture. However, bags can alter this support posture over time, especially if the person has initial posture problems or the bags are unbalanced or overweight. The worst type of bags is the standard shoulder bag or purse because it puts weight on only one side of the body. The one-sided pull can cause back spasms, tightness, headaches, and decreased neck curve.

Backpacks are better because they distribute the weight more evenly. However, backpacks can still be dangerous over time, especially when overweight. Carrying heavy backpacks causes spinal compression, nerve damage, and postural problems.

How Do You Know Your Backpack Is Too Heavy?

According to Harvard Health, people shouldn't carry backpacks that are more than 15-20 percent of their weight. That means a 180-pound person shouldn't carry more than 36 pounds of gear in their packs. However, how a backpack is packed also influences its relative weight on the spine.

Healthiest Ways to Carry Your Things

The healthiest way to carry heavy things is always with the least amount of strain on the body. Rolling heavy things in wheeled bags is ideal. That is unless you must bend to pull the bag. Since wheeled bags are not always practical and shoulder bags unevenly strain the back, backpacks are the ideal, versatile personal carrying device. Use your backpack safest with these tips:

  • Distribute the weight in the pack so that the heaviest items are closest to your back
  • Always use both shoulder straps and utilize the hip strap if the load is especially heavy
  • When lifting the pack, bend at the knees
  • Wide backpack straps distribute weight more evenly than narrow straps
  • Make sure straps are tight, keeping the backpack as high against your back as possible

Correcting Backpack Spinal Dysfunction With Chiropractic

Chiropractors are trained to identify and correct spinal dysfunction, like what might occur from extended bag wearing. Postural issues that commonly develop from extended backpack wear are often correctable with focused spinal manipulation and changes to wear habits. Any postural issues compound the health issues of pack wear, as they further misalign the back which places even more weight upon the spine.

The Joint Chiropractic offers affordable, insurance-free evaluations to determine treatment options for any back problems caused by years of backpack or shoulder bag use. The Joint's doctors can also advise on habitual changes to reduce your risk of further damage. Stop on by for a walk-in session during The Joint's night and weekend hours to take the first step to recovery today.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Boca Raton, Fla.

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