As summer starts winding down, it’s almost time to gear up for another school year. For many students, this means picking out school supplies, from stationary to new shoes, and of course, a backpack.
While it can be exciting to pick out a backpack you love, many students grow to resent carrying the thing when it becomes so heavy it hurts their back. Students of all ages can develop lower back pain, and their backpack may be the culprit.
We can’t make your textbooks any lighter, but we can offer some advice to help you pick out a pack that will look after your back. Here are four simple tips to bear in mind when you go back-to-school shopping.
Smaller is Better
Students often opt for a larger backpack to fit as many books and school supplies as they can carry. But a smaller backpack is a better bet, since it will ensure that you don’t pack more weight that your back can handle. Just make sure that it fits the essentials.
If you do want a larger pack, choose one that is the length of your torso, and doesn’t extend past your waist.
Pay attention to the straps
Thick shoulder straps help to distribute the weight of the backpack more evenly across your shoulders, making your pack more comfortable to carry. S-shaped straps that are at least three finger widths wide are typically best. Foam padding is also a plus, as is the ability to adjust the straps to make the pack fit snugly.
Make sure the straps aren’t so wide that they’ll rub your neck, and check how the material feels against your bare skin. Since you should always wear both straps, you want to make sure the pack won’t irritate your skin.
You can also go an extra step and look for a pack with a waist strap, to take some of the strain off your shoulders. You may need to look in an athletic or outdoor clothing store to find one, but your back will thank you.
Use a hack or two
Look for a backpack designed with compartments, so heavier objects can rest close to the body and lighter objects can fit in smaller pockets on the outside. This can also make it easier to find things when you need them, so you’re not forced to dig amongst the bulky books to find loose pens or a stick of gum.
You can also consider buying a backpack with wheels, so you can roll it when the load is too much for your back.
Don’t Over Pack
Doctors recommend your backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10-20% of your body weight. That can be a hard rule to follow, especially if you have thick textbooks or a lot of homework. But carrying too much weight damages your posture and leads to long-term back problems.
When packing your backpack, put the heavier books nearest to the back, and don’t pack more than you need. Leave excess books in your locker between classes whenever possible to minimize the weight you have to carry. It may also help to bend your knees when you lift the backpack.
Back pain can strike at any age. If back pain is giving you or your family grief, it may be time to consider an alternative form of treatment. At Spine and Joint Center, we use regenerative medicine and minimally-invasive techniques to help relieve back pain and encourage the body to heal. Contact us today to find out more.