Don’t Let Your Bag Be A Pain
The best bag is an empty bag, but more often than not, our bags are loaded with all sorts of things that makes them heavy and can give us pain in the neck and back. With the back to school season upon us, kids aren’t the only ones having to haul huge bags around. Here’s how to carry a heavy bag without damaging your back.
Carry That Weight — The Need-to-Know
Bags were a huge boon to early humans. Then, and now, they allowed us to carry more with less effort. This was helpful for collecting wood or food but backpacks were a pain, meant initially for heavy lifting or industrial use. It wasn’t until the 1950s when avid hiker Dick Kelty developed a lightweight but sturdy bag meant for civilian use that they became a pain for the rest of society. Since then, bags of all shapes and sizes have become a staple of everyday life for men, women and children with ergonomic designs to make them “easier” on our backs. A study carried out by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) in 2008 found that that the daily school routine can take its toll, with 72% of the nation’s school children carrying around heavy books and sports equipment on their backs for much of the day. Bags of many size and design are popular for professionals who might need to carry essentials to work like a laptop, gym kit, lunch, wallets and purses, and more. The extra weight carried can be detrimental to the posture and cause pain and dysfunction — especially when carried for long periods.
If we can’t avoid it what is the best way to carry our over-stuffed bags with ease?
Take a Load Off — Your Action Plan
The bad news is that the best way to carry a heavy bag is to not carry a heavy bag. Lighter loads put less stress on the carrier and minimize all sorts of problems like changes in posture in the neck and back. Adults and children are susceptible to back problems from carrying heavy loads and this issue in adults may stem from bad posture and heavy carrying as a child.
Here are some simple tips to make carrying easier
- Only carry 10 percent of bodyweight (at most). When carrying a heavy bag, try to keep the load capped at 10 percent of the carrier’s total bodyweight at most. Anything heavier significantly alters posture and may lead to longer term spinal problems.
- Place heavier objects on the bottom. Try keeping most of the load low in the bag. One study found that low load placement caused fewer changes in posture and natural spinal curvature. It also made carrying the bag relatively easier children.
- Taking breaks will also reduce strain. If heavy loads are unavoidable, aim to strengthen core and back muscles to help support the load. This will help keep the spine from twisting and promote better posture.
- Use two straps. One study found that the neck, not the back, was the weak point for carrying loads. To help, try using a bag that has two straps instead of one to help correct posture and more evenly distribute weight. If one-strap is the only option, try to periodically swap sides.
- Even everything out. When packing a bag, try to distribute the weight evenly to avoid postural stress. One study found that an evenly weighted bag decreased lateral spinal motion when getting up and down from chairs.
- Keep it all close to the body. Weight is just one of two factors that can lead to injury. “Postural sway” is the amount of torque and tension placed on the spine by a heavy load. Carrying a bag closer to the body will reduce the amount of sway and stress placed on the spinal muscles and joints.
For those concerned by their bag weight, shape, size and position and need some advice contact Herts Beds Chiropractic today where we can help you find a bag with ergonomics best suited to your body type and lifestyle.