As summer comes to an end, we know that school is just around the corner. Before we can go back to school, we want to make sure we have all the right necessities, such as a durable and supportive backpack. For those searching for a new backpack or those wondering why a good backpack matters, keep reading below for education by one of our occupational therapists.
Why is it important to wear a supportive backpack?
Backpacks assist us with carrying all the items we need while preventing neck, shoulder, and back pain as well as any other injuries and difficulties. A backpack that is not supportive could lead to numerous concerns including the following:
- It can lead to back pain in children, adolescents as well as adults. Research conducted by Perrone et al. (2018), Hernandez et al. (2020), Mackenzie et al. (2003), Toghroli et al. (2021), Natasha et al. (2017) and others demonstrates that backpacks with a poor fit for individuals are correlated to back pain. This is important to consider because if children develop back pain in their early years, this could develop into increased back pain in their adult years as demonstrated by Mackenzie et al. (2003).
- It can lead to MSK injuries (Perrone et al., 2018; Hernandez et al., 2020).
- It can lead to issues with posture, gait, neck, shoulder and once again back pain (Natasha et al., 2017).
- It can also lead to fatigue, biomechanical difficulties, swelling and discomfort (Perrone et al., 2018).
The following should be avoided to prevent developing some of the difficulties listed above:
- Avoid slinging your backpack onto one shoulder as it increases the amount of pressure placed on one side of the body. You want a backpack with 2 slings to evenly distribute the weight across the body, thereby preventing an accumulation of pressure to that one area.
- Avoid carrying/messenger bags for the same reasons listed above.
What should I consider when purchasing a backpack?
If you’re looking to invest in a supportive backpack, it would be important to consider the following:
- 2 adjustable Straps: Try to find a backpack with 2 wide straps. Straps help to distribute the weight evenly across the body as mentioned earlier. Also, consider looking at adjustable straps which you can accommodate to a length that works for you.
- Waist belt: Try to find a backpack with a waist belt. This would further help to distribute the weight across the body and would also help to keep the weight of the backpack closer to your center of gravity, thereby alleviating the pressure along your shoulders and back.
- Lightweight backpack: Research supports finding a backpack that is no more than 10% of your body weight. Thus, if you weigh 120 lbs, consider a backpack that weighs 20 lbs (Drzal-grabiec et al., 2015; Hyung et al., 2016; American Academy of Pediatrics).
- Backpacks with multiple compartments: Try to find a backpack with multiple compartments as this also helps to distribute the weight evenly.
- Chest strap: Once again, this helps to distribute the weight evenly. Further, it keeps the backpack closer to one’s center of gravity, providing stability and support.
- Make sure the backpack is stable when you walk: Try to keep the backpack close enough to the body so that it does not sway while you walk. Swaying can lead to chaffing along the shoulders and back.
- Find a backpack that is about 1-2 inches above your waistline: Try to find a backpack that follows the torso but that is not so long that it hangs below the hips. This can lead to pain in the shoulders and back. It might help to find a backpack with back padding as well.
These tips are further demonstrated in the infographic below:
Some further advice to consider when handling your backpack to prevent injury include:
- Try putting your bag down throughout the day to take breaks on your neck, shoulders, and back.
- Always use 2 straps.
- Use the side pockets to distribute weight.
- Place the heaviest items closest to your back when loading your backpack.
- When picking up your backpack, lift with your legs and not your back to avoid strain on your shoulders and back.
Which backpack would you recommend?
Below you will see a list of 4 backpacks that we would recommend for the Fall 2022 School Season. However, please keep in mind the previously mentioned tips when considering the following backpacks. Every individual has a unique build, shape, and height. Thus, consider whether the following backpacks are appropriate for your build, shape, and height.
1. The North Face Backpack. This is a great choice due to its chest strap, the flat and even back with padding, the numerous small pockets, the adjustable straps, and the torso length. It also comes in several colours:
2. Patagonia Refugio 25L Pack. This is also a great choice due to the soft padding on the back, the chest strap, the torso length, the several pockets, and 2 adjustable straps:
3. 40L Backpack from Amazon. This backpack is wonderful as it is equipped with 2 adjustable straps, a chest strap, waist strap, back padding, and is small enough that it does not hang below the hips.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2015). Backpack Safety. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Backpack-Safety.aspx
Drzał-grabiec J., Truszczyńska, A., Rykała, J., Rachwał, M., Snela, S., Podgórska, J. (2015). Effect of asymmetrical backpack load on spinal curvature in school children. Work, 51 (2):383-8.
Hernandez, T. L., Ferre, M. C., Salvat, S. (2020). Relationship between school backpacks and musculoskeletal pain in children 8 to 10 years of age: An observational, cross-sectional and analytical study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(7), 2487.
Hyung E. J., Lee H. O., Kwon Y.J. (2016). Influence of load and carrying method on gait, specifically pelvic movement. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 28 (7): 2059–2062.
Mackenzie, W. g., Sampath, J. S., Kruse, R. W., Neiss, g. J. S. (2003). Backpacks in children. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 409, 78-84.
Mullr, J. (2021). 5 Best ergonomic backpacks for better posture and comfort (2021 Edition). Ergonomic Trends. Retrieved from https://ergonomictrends.com/best-ergonomic-backpacks-posture/
Natasha, A. a., Syukri, A. A., Diana, M. K. S. N., Nirwana, s. I., Chin, K. Y. (2018). The association between backpack use and low back pain among pre-university students: A pilot study. Journal of Taibah University Medical Sciences, 13(2), 205-209.
Perrone, M., Orr, R., Hing, W., Milne, N., Pope, R. (2018). The impact of backpack loads on school children: A critical narrative review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15 (11), 2529.
Toghroli, R., Reisy, L., Mansourian, M., Azar, F. E. F., Ziapour, A., Mehedi, N., Najhaddadgar, N. (2021). Backpack improper use causes musculoskeletal injuries in adolescents: A systematic review. Journal of Education and Health Promotion, 10, 237.