Lifelong Burdens: What Carrying Heavy Bags Does to Your Back

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Throughout our entire lives, we’re weighed down by a variety of back-borne burdens.

As a kid, you probably hauled around a book bag laden with heavy textbooks for much of the year. As you grew older you began shouldering other weights, like big purses for all your makeup, or a large backpacking kit for a camping trip. As you moved into adulthood you took on even more; diaper bags, travelling satchels, and laptop bags. !

Though these bags help us carry around our life essentials, they also do a number on our backs. Almost anyone can handle a few extra pounds every now and then, but the day-in, day-out wear and tear many people receive on their back and shoulders can add up over time. !

Long-term use of heavy bags can have a lot of negative side effects. In short term, you can get sore shoulders and numbness in the arms where bag straps are digging in. In the long term, you’re at risk of spinal compression and lumbar asymmetry, and “backpack palsy.” !

The Do’s and Don’ts of Bag Usage

Frequent use of bags and packs might be inevitable, but if you do it wisely you can avoid serious damage. !

  • Do limit what you’re carrying to the essentials. Try to leave unneeded books in a locker at school, clean junk out of your purse, and use lightweight bags.
  • Don’t carry bags weighting more than 10-15% of your weight.
  • Do use both straps of a backpack and keep them tightened as short as possible.
  • Don’t sling a pack over one should or let it hang down more than necessary.
  • Do alternate the shoulder bearing the weight of sing-strap bag frequently.
  • Do use bags with wide, padded straps.
  • Don’t pick up heavy bags with your back muscles; lift with your knees.
  • Do use hiking poles or a walking stick for more stability and balance while backpacking

Taking proper precautions with your bags will increase your day-to-day wellness and reduce the odds of a serious or chronic back problem. For more information, check out our handy infographic and stay tuned for more back pain tips on our blog!

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