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Back Pain Due to Backpack: Causes, Ways to Avoid, Exercises, Warning Signs

Back pain is a common health ailment that tends to affect almost every individual in some or the other way, though the cause behind the pain may vary. One such common cause of back pain is backpack.(1) Such kind of back pain is commonly witnessed in children, teens and adults who travel frequently. Back pain due to a backpack is the most neglected of all the cases, but in the long term this negligence amounts to potential back risks like slip disc and strained back. Thus, it becomes necessary to understand the possible dangers and its progressive effects on the health of the back, when carrying a backpack.

Reasons for Back Pain Due to Backpacks

In order to avoid back pain caused due to backpack, it is important to know the factors causing back pain. The primary causative factors behind the occurrence of back pain due to backpack are:

Reasons for Back Pain Due to Backpacks

  • Putting on the backpack in an incorrect manner
  • Carrying heavy weight backpack over a long distance
  • Improper distribution of weight within the backpack.

How to Avoid Back Pain Due to Backpack?

In order to avoid the pain and difficulty caused in the back due to backpack, one needs to use a right backpack. For choosing the correct backpack, it should suit the enlisted criteria:

  • Lightweight Material to Avoid Back Pain due to Backpack: Backpack should be made of a durable yet lightweight material that ensures strength of the backpack without straining it. For instance, nylon canvas or Cordura are suitable lightweight materials in opposition to heavyweight leather.
  • Wide and Padded Shoulder Straps to Avoid Back Pain: The shoulder straps should be at least two inches wide and should be padded to provide the required support without causing any pain or distress.
  • Proper Compartmentalization of Backpack to Avoid Back Pain: There should be ample compartments in the backpack, which should be appropriately positioned to allow proper distribution of the weight.
  • Appropriate Backpack Length: The length of the backpack should allow the dorsal length of the back to accommodate easily with the backpack.
  • Padding in the Back to Avoid Back Pain due to Backpack: The side of the backpack touching the back should be padded to ensure less strain with even distribution of the weight all over the back.
  • Avoiding Back Pain due to Backpack with Waist Belt: The backpack should always contain a waist belt, to allow the hips to support the backpack and reducing the load on the back.
  • Wheels on Backpack to Avoid Back Pain: The backpack should contain wheels, so that it can be pulled wherever possible without straining the back much.

Ways to Carry Backpack to Avoid Back Pain

The preventive measures that should be followed while carrying a backpack, to prevent back pain are:

  • Choosing the Right Backpack: One should always choose the right backpack that fits into the above criteria to ensure that carrying weight does not cause any harm to the back.
  • Managing Weight of Backpack to Avoid Back Pain: Under ideal circumstances, the backpack weight should not be more than ten percent of the body weight of the backpacker.(2)
  • Even Distribution of Weight: The weight in the backpack should be distributed symmetrically, which means that weight should not be confined to one side of the backpack. This should be done to ensure that the posture related stress is minimal.
  • Keeping Backpack Close to the Body to Avoid Back Pain: While carrying the backpack, it should be placed close to the body to prevent sway in the posture and back injury.
  • Knee Position when Lifting Backpack to Avoid Back Pain: Whenever lifting the backpack, one must ensure that the knees are bent to prevent any possible jerks to the back.
  • Strapping on both the Straps: While taking backpack, both straps should be put on so that pressure from the weight of the backpack is evenly distributed.
  • Avoid Carrying Backpack when Possible: If the backpack contains wheels, then the backpack should be pulled along wherever possible to allow minimum chances of strain on the back.
  • Refraining from Leaning Forward while Walking to Avoid Back Pain: One should refrain from leaning forward while walking with a backpack as it may exert extra pressure on the back and the spine.

Exercises to Prevent Back Pain due to Backpack

There are some basic stretching exercises which, when followed regularly will prevent the back pain due to backpack. These are:

  • Back Stretches to Avoid Back Pain due to Backpack: In back stretches, the knee is bent and pushed towards the chest by the help of clasped hands, while the individual is lying on his back.
  • Side Stretches to Avoid Back Pain: These stretches can be done either in standing position or while lying on the floor. In standing position, keep the hands on the waist and slowly bend sideways. This process is repeated for other side as well. When the exercise is done on a lying position, the hands stay behind the head and similar stretch is practiced as in case of standing.
  • Lower Back Stretches to Avoid Back Pain due to Backpack: For lower back stretches, the individual lies on his back, bend their knees and place their hands by their side. After this, the head is turned to right and knees to the left, stretching the lower back. The same procedure is then repeated on the other side.
  • Neck Stretches for Back Pain due to Backpack: In this stretch, the neck is slowly bent forward, backward and sideways, until a stretch is felt in the neck.

Warning Signs of Back Pain due to Backpack

The warning signs that distinguishes the back pain due to backpack from the other kinds of back pain are:

  • Constant pain in the neck, shoulder and the back region.
  • Difficulty while strapping on as well as removing the backpack.
  • Tingling sensation in the back.
  • Numbing sensation at frequent intervals.
  • Associated red marks on the skin due to the backpack.

Back pain due to backpack should not be avoided at any cost since it can lead to long term strains and sprains as well as spondylosis. It can causes severe pain causing permanent damages to the spine as well. Hence, proper precautions must be taken to avoid back pain due to backpack and also the warning signs must be noted to seek early care. If the back pain is already present, one must consult a physician and start doing the exercises and take the appropriate measures to handle it.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 27, 2019

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