Carrying a bad when you step out is something that comes to all of us naturally. A sling bag, a messenger, a tote, a school bag, a backpack — anything will do as long as it holds your essentials. While the convenience is definitely there, ever wondered if these bags, from the tiniest to the heaviest, may be causing spinal issues?
A simple thing like carrying your bad wrong could be making you the victim of a chronic backache. Now, you can’t really not use a bag ever again. What can you do? Just take a few precautions to ensure that your favorite accessory does not give you pains for a lifetime.
Do’s Of Carrying A Bag
1. Carry The Bag Close To Your Shoulders
The more a bag dangles, the more pain it causes to your shoulders and back. A study on school-going kids found that kids who carried the weights closer to their bodies experienced less backache than kids who didn’t.1 So, your saving grace is to go for a bag that stays close to your back and shoulders.
2. Distribute The Weight Evenly
When in a hurry, you tend to pack bags randomly. You might end up placing water bottles and lunch bags on one side and lighter items like a purse on the other. This is exactly what you need to avoid. By distributing the weight equally within a bag, you can ensure that there is no unnecessary pressure on one part of the body at odd angles. This is especially the case with backpacks. By being an organized packer, you ensure that the entire back works on carrying the weight, preventing possible injury.2
3. Make Sure The Bag Is Light In Weight
As a general guideline, it is good practice to keep your bag’s weight under 10% of your body weight. On an average, this is 7 kilos for an adult and 5 kilos or lesser for children.3
Do not carry things from place to place unless you absolutely need to. Mail yourself copies of work as opposed to carrying the files home. Leave your laptop’s charger at work on weekdays. Children can use their locker rooms and follow the school timetable to only carry the books required for that day.4
4. Keep The Heaviest Item Close To Your Back
Some days, carrying something heavy becomes inevitable. In such cases, place the heavy item closest to your back. You can do this by carrying it in a backpack with tightened shoulder straps. If you’re carrying a baby, ensure that you tighten the straps in such a way that the baby is closest to your body.
Also, take frequent breaks while you carry heavy loads. If you notice a mild ache in the back, set the heavy object aside for a while. If at any point while carrying a load you find the need to bend, use your knees to bend down and keep the back straight. These simple tips can literally save you from a world of pain later.5
Don’ts Of Carrying A Bag
1. Use Loosely Hanging Bags
Sling bags are small and easy to carry around, but you often tend to wear them low on the side. The same goes for laptop bags. You may often extend the straps such that they are closer to the hips than the back itself. Doing this can cause you to bend to one side to support the weight, thus curving your spine at odd angles. Over time, this is enough to cause you chronic aches and pains.6
2. Carry Bags That Hang On One Side
A woman’s handbag is often meant to be carried on one side of the shoulder. When filled with work papers, a laptop, and a few accessories, it can get quite heavy. In such cases, don’t use a handbag to carry heavy items such as a laptop or your lunch. Have a separate trolley case for these things, and carry only the essentials in a handbag. If you have a slimmer laptop, you can actually consider holding it in your arms and not putting that weight on your shoulders and upper back.7
3. Overstuff Your Bag
Let’s do a quick test. Take out your most used bag and dump out all its contents. You will find a lot of unnecessary things in there including lost accessories, unused books, and bits and pieces of no importance whatsoever. Now, you might have hoarded with good intentions and just forgotten. If this is the case, clean up your bags often — even too much loose change can add to the weight. It may be a good idea to also clean your child’s bag while you’re cleaning your own.8
4. Neglect The Aches And Pains
Your back is subjected to wear and tear on a daily basis. Everything from the sitting posture to basic activities like walking can cause back and, eventually, spinal issues. If you notice a dull ache settling in your back, get it checked as soon as possible and work toward correcting it.
If left untreated, backaches can lead to spondylitis and scoliosis, conditions that require intensive treatment and follow-up. The only way to avoid such severe issues is to take precautions and be active.9
Is your back aching despite taking these steps? Take up exercises to release the stiffness and strengthen the back muscles. If the pain is unbearable, see a specialist and seek their advice.
|↑1||Poursadeghiyan, Mohsen, Keykaous Azrah, Hamed Biglari, Mohammad Hossein Ebrahimi, Hamed Yarmohammadi, Mohammad Mehdi Baneshi, Mahsa Hami, and Alireza Khammar. “The effects of the manner of carrying the bags on musculoskeletal symptoms in school students in the city of Ilam, Iran.” Annals of Tropical Medicine and Public Health 10, no. 3 (2017): 600.|
|↑2, ↑7||Raj, Joshua. A Guide to the Prevention and Treatment of Back Pain. Armour Publishing Pte Ltd, 2011.|
|↑3||Hong, Youlian, and Gert-Peter Brueggemann. “Changes in gait patterns in 10-year-old boys with increasing loads when walking on a treadmill.” Gait & posture 11, no. 3 (2000): 254-259.|
|↑4, ↑6, ↑8||G. Borenstein, David. Back in Control. Rowman & Littlefield, 2003.|
|↑5||Girasole, Gerard. The 7-Minute Back Pain Solution. Harlequin, 2012.|
|↑9||Sahli, Sonia, Haithem Rebai, Sameh Ghroubi, Abdelmonem Yahia, Mohamed Guermazi, and Mohamed Habib Elleuch. “The effects of backpack load and carrying method on the balance of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis subjects.” The Spine Journal 13, no. 12 (2013): 1835-1842.|