The First Lesson of the School Year: How to Pack and Carry Your Backpack

If you experience back and neck pain after a few days at school, there’s a good chance your backpack is to blame. Every year, The Ontario Chiropractic Association encourages students to lighten their loads with their “Pack it Light. Wear it Right.” campaign. In addition to providing Ontario chiropractors with helpful literature for their patients, they also provide resource material for students and teachers.

Poor posture isn’t the only side effect to carrying a heavy load with uneven weight distribution; it may also result in the distortion of the spinal column, throwing it out of alignment. The result? Back, neck and arm pain, headaches, muscle strain…possibly even nerve damage.

Image courtesy of OCA

Prevention is the key to ensuring students load and lift their backpacks properly. A heavy backpack carried on one shoulder, for instance, causes the spine to lean and puts stress on the joints and muscles in your mid and lower back. The added daily stress on your mid and lower back can increase the chances you’ll suffer from back problems later in life. Straighten up! The two shoulder straps on your backpack are there for even weight distribution and should be adjusted so that the pack fits snugly. If your backpack has a waist strap, use that too. It will reduce the strain on your back and transfer some of the load on to your hips.

Image courtesy of OCA

Whether you’re moving a heavy box or a loaded backpack, it’s important to always lift with your legs and bend at the knees. Avoid twisting your torso when lifting your backpack onto your body; instead, place it on a counter, chair or table before slipping it on one strap at a time.

Image courtesy of OCA

Packing it right means packing it light. Children in Junior Kindergarten through Grade 8 should aim to keep the weight of their backpacks below 10 per cent of their body weight; older students are able to carry up to 15 per cent of their weight. Get in the habit of carrying only what you need for the day and pack the heaviest items closest to your body. This way, the majority of the weight in the backpack is closer to your body’s own centre of gravity.

For a full list of resources available from The Ontario Chiropractic Association, click here.