About 31 million Americans experience low back pain at any given time. Worldwide, back pain is one of the leading causes of disability, preventing people from working and participating in daily activities. Back pain affects people of all ages, from adolescents to the elderly.
One cause of back pain is using backpacks not designed to adequately support backs, leading to strained muscles and tendons in your back. Also, cushions of tissue called discs separate the bony vertebrae of your spine. If moved out of place, bulge, or are injured, these discs can result in pain and even become debilitating.
Backpacks are known by other names such as knapsack, rucksack, haversack, pack, bookrack, or book bag. A backpack can be a frameless sack carried on the back and secured with two straps that go over the shoulders; or have an external and internal frame. Backpacks are often made of canvas, nylon, mesh, or leather and have become the primary way for many people to carry their necessary items.
People that regularly use backpacks include:
History of the Backpack
Backpacks are traced to prehistoric times when cavemen carried their bounty on their backs in bags made of animal hide. In 1908, Norwegian inventor Ole Bergan created a design that did not compromise the wearer’s comfort. He bent a piece of juniper wood to replicate the contour of a person’s back on which hung a soft cloth bag. A Colorado businessman, Gerry Cunningham, invented the first zip-up backpack in 1938.
For many years, school children carried their schoolbooks in their hands until JanSport introduced nylon, a lightweight backpacks in 1967. It then became a must-have for elementary, high school, and college students.
Evolution of Backpacks
Less expensive backpacks are available at favorite discount stores, like Marshall’s and Ross. In the 1990s, backpacks became more fashionable and Coach, Calvin Klein, and other high-end brands created their own style of backpack. They became very trendy and were often expensive. Luxury brands reintroduced backpacks for fashion as well as function.
Backpacks come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. There are minimalist backpacks, These are streamlined and usually used to carry lunch, beauty products, a change of clothes, and a few essentials. Other backpacks have several pockets and can carry a first aid kit, knife, water, flashlight, batteries, insect repellent, rain gear, and extra clothing. More recently, backpacks were manufactured specifically to hold 72-hour emergency kits.
How are backpacks bad for your back?
Between the vertebrae are discs that act as natural shock absorbers. When placing heavy weight on shoulders in the wrong way, the weight’s force can pull you backward. To compensate, you may bend forward at the hips or arch your back. Over time this can cause the shoulders to become rounded and the upper back to become curved. This misuse can cause your spine to compress unnaturally and cause shoulder, neck, and back pain.
Students often carry bulky textbooks and school supplies in their backpacks. Heavy loads place stress on the shoulders and spine, causing muscle fatigue and strain. This leads to poor posture and excessive slouching.
Carrying excessive weight can cause damage to joints, ligaments, and muscles across the back and hips. These body parts compensate for the extra weight and cause stiffness, loss of range of motion, and degeneration. Degeneration leads to chronic back pain, compressed discs, neck pain, altered posture and gait, and even pain in the feet.
How to wear a backpack without hurting your back
To prevent injuring your back while wearing a backpack, always wear the appropriate size and weight. Be sure to wear both shoulder straps and tighten them to keep the backpack closer to the back, so you have more control. Load the backpack with the heavier items on the bottom and in the center. A backpack with two shoulder straps is safer than a single strap bag. It distributes weight evenly and prevents pain.
According to Prevention.com, some backpacks can keep you pain-free. Large backpacks, which can carry over 22 pounds, often offload the most significant part of their weight onto padded hip belts, leaving the shoulder straps mainly for stabilization. Since the hips are nearer the wearer’s center of mass and are more robust than the shoulders, it improves the potential to carry heavy loads, increases balance and agility.
Follow these guidelines when using a suitable backpack:
A backpack should not hang more than a few inches below the waist. A backpack that hangs two inches above the waist is the optimal fit, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons,
Use both shoulder straps, firmly tightened.
Purchase a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps.
Use a hip strap when carrying heavy loads and distribute the weight evenly between the back and hips.
You should pack the heaviest items close to the back.
When lifting a heavy backpack, bend at the knees and use your legs to lift it.
Don’t overload the backpack. You should not carry more than 15% - 20% of your weight.
Consider purchasing a backpack on wheels.
Establishing good habits will avoid back pain later on.
Here are a few more ways to carry your backpack safely:
Pay attention to proper posture: Keep your ears above your shoulder, your shoulders, back, your chest open, and back straight.
Pack only what is necessary
Tighten both straps to distribute weight evenly.
Use a waist or chest strap if your backpack has one.
Use digital textbooks if possible
Use lockers to avoid carrying everything at once
Make multiple trips if needed.
Best backpacks for students according to Business insider:
The best overall - JanSport Big Student Backpack (Staples)
Best for preschool - L.L. Bean Junior Original Book Pack (L.L. Bean)
Best for middle school - JanSport Superbreak Backpack (Amazon)
Best for high school - The North Face Recon (Amazon)
Best for College - The North Face Jester Backpack (Dick’s Sporting Goods)
According to ergonomic trends.com, the five best ergonomic backpacks for better posture and comfort in 2021 include:
Kopack Laptop Backpack - scratch, water, and abrasion-resistant ideal for school or work (Amazon)
Russel Molly Hiking Backpack - waterproof and ergonomic ideal for hiking (Amazon)
Outjoy 17.3 inch Laptop Backpack - considered the best shockproof laptop backpack (Amazon)
Matien Travel Backpack - Considered the best business backpack with an anti-theft pocket (Amazon)
Tigernu Business Backpack - Runner up for best business backpack is well-built ergonomic with the most compartments. (Amazon)
Tactical and Modular Vests are becoming more popular and are made of high-quality polyester fiber and are lighter and stronger. Nylon stitching on MOLLE reinforces to make the vest stronger. The design makes it easy to pick up and retrieve items. Vests with MOLLE design allow wearers to carry all the gear you need, with balanced weight across the body. Vests and backpacks can be used alone or with EVA boards to protect you from tactical games or hunting activities.
The MOLLE vest is ideal for low-visibility and high mobility operations. Quick on/off and adjustable size has hooks and loop closures. The skeletonize cummerbund is reinforced for stiffness and can accept MOLLE accessories on both inside and outside surfaces.
It is proven that distributing weight more evenly in a backpack reduces joint pain and increases stability. This is especially true while hiking and camping. The R72 Grab&Go Vest easily allows users to achieve this concept.
Dr. Jason Campbell - DPM, MHA, AACFAS
The R72 Grab&Go Vest with Modular Bags can prepare you for anything. The Ultimate Grab&Go Vest Bundle features the following:
7 Modular Bags
R72 First Aid Kit
Extra Modular Bag
Folding Tactical Pocket Knife
Tactical Pen Set
LuminAid Inflatable Solar Lantern
R72 Caribiners (6