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School Backpacks: How to choose and wear them properly

August 2, 2022

As summer begins to wind down, we all must start thinking about what we need to buy and gather for the new school year. Pencils, pens, folders, and notebooks are all items that seem to make the supply list every year. We tend to look for the ones that draw our eye and suit our personal taste. Maybe we need something bright with a fun design. Maybe we look for something simple and solid. Either way, we want it to match our personality so we can feel excited to use it!

This “personalized” approach to supply shopping may work just fine for the small, essential items we need, but what about when it comes to backpacks? While a backpack may look like it suits us based on the color or pattern, it may not be the best for us. It is important to find a bag that is comfortable, durable, and has all the features to offload the bundle of books we will be dragging around. There are a few tips we need to keep in mind when finding and using the proper backpack.

  1. Choose a bag with two straps: While a duffel bag provides more room to carry your items, they are made with one long strap. This is going to place the full weight of your school items on only one shoulder. As we continue to overload one half of the body and not the other, we cause a lot of strain on our muscles. This can disrupt the balance in our muscles and joints and potentially create pain within the neck, shoulders, and upper back. By splitting the weight of the bag between both shoulders, we keep the muscles working evenly and in sync with each other. It also places the center of the bag at the center of your back, allowing for your large back and core muscles to support the weight as opposed to the smaller neck and shoulder muscles.
  2. Make sure the straps are wide: Wide straps on a bag will ensure the weight is distributed throughout the entire muscle it is resting on. A skinny strap places a lot of undue stress on a very small portion of the muscle belly. When pressure occurs in a small area such as this for a longer period of time, it has the potential to cause swelling or bruising in the area, both of which are indicative of tissue irritation and damage.
  3. Do not overload the backpack: While it may seem efficient to carry a full days’ worth of books around with you, it can become very taxing on your body. Excess weight sitting atop your shoulders will strain not only the muscles your straps are on, but also the muscles in the mid and low back. This downward pressure from the backpack combined with typical pressure from gravity could cause spinal issues. The weight tends to pull your spine, or posture, downward and forward, rounding out your trunk. This position allows for shortening and tightening of your front side and increased tension or stretch on the backside. Joints will then shift and create misalignment, which ultimately leads to pain that could require therapeutic or surgical intervention.

So now, when you head to the store to pick out that perfect backpack for your new year at school, don’t automatically choose the fanciest or brightest or biggest one you can find. Take a good look at it and ask yourself a few questions. Can I fit a couple books at a time in this bag? Does it have two straps that can be adjusted to fit around both of my shoulders? Are the straps wide enough to sit comfortably on my shoulders without causing pain? The answer to these will surely lead you to a smart choice that works best for you!