Backpacks: Fashion vs Function

Backpacks: Fashion vs Function

Monday, January 6, 2020

Backpacks are used by many people every day as the most efficient way to transport heavy materials over moderate distances whilst looking after their spine. Current research supports this concept and is the reason why students should be encouraged to use a backpack, but it must be used correctly. 

In this age group, where peer pressure and fashion play a significant role in everyday life, certain practices have emerged that increase the risk of getting spinal subluxation. This can have wide ranging ramifications because young people's spines are at a critical stage of development.

Backpacks (or at least using them correctly) have become a victim of fashion. The purpose of the humble backpack is to distribute the weight evenly over the lower back and hips, not over the shoulders as is commonly thought. Unfortunately it is no longer 'cool’ to have a strap on both shoulders. The hip belt, that is essential for optimal weight distribution, is rarely worn. Many backpacks don't even come equipped with one. 

Children now have to carry heavier loads for longer periods of time, far in excess of what would be considered reasonable for their growing frames. The use of laptop computers for school activities is ever increasing. Unfortunately the weight of these devices poses a problem with transportation. Likewise the amount and weight of books currently required in the schooling system is greater than ever. In families with both parents working there is an increase in school children's reliance on public transport. This in turn increases the distances covered whilst carrying school bags. 

A recent Australian study found that the ideal backpack weight should be approximately 10% of body weight. Where loads exceeded 15%, normal spinal biomechanics were sacrificed. 

The 'popular' method of carrying backpacks and other carry bags over one shoulder places 

uneven stresses on spinal ligaments and muscles. Prolonged and/or repetitive use can be extremely detrimental to normal spinal biomechanics, potentially interfering with normal spinal nerve function. 

Things to look for when buying a backpack are: padded adjustable shoulder straps and hip belt, contoured back panel for maximal stability and comfort within the spine and protection from sharp objects, such as book corners, within the bag. Sternal straps (linking both shoulder straps at the front of the sternum) that prevent the shoulder straps from coming loose from the shoulders are important. Compression straps on the side of the bag that can be tightened to keep the load close to the centre of gravity, are also beneficial. 

When packing a backpack every endeavour should be made to pack the heaviest items at the bottom of the bag. Where available, school locker use should be encouraged and only materials that are necessary for the day or night's activities should be carried. Correct positioning of the shoulder straps on either shoulder and the use of hip belts will maximise the benefits of a backpack. 

On days when the bag is particularly heavy a lift to or from school is ideal, if possible. Come in and get adjusted before the new school year starts. Book online or call us on: 07 3381 0440

Dr. Steve Hodal is committed to providing high-quality, individualized chiropractic care in a comfortable and relaxed environment. He is dedicated to providing evidence-based treatments that are tailored to each patient’s individual needs, allowing them to achieve optimal health and wellbeing. Contact us to know more about this disorder or Book Online.