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As September approaches, I can’t help but think about the return to school routine and packing backpacks for my kids. However, backpacks aren’t just for kids heading back to school; they can also be a great way to carry multiple items while keeping your hands free for other tasks. I frequently see adults, including seniors, making use of the convenience of backpacks, particularly when traveling.

Despite their convenience, I have also seen many clients who have injuries or increased pain as a result of their improper use. Here are 5 physio tips that can help you optimize your safety and comfort when using a backpack.

Physio Tip 1 – Use Padded Shoulder Straps

Straps that have additional padding will spread the pressure of the bag across a larger area of your shoulder. This helps reduce the strain in your neck and shoulders.

Physio Tip 2 – Use the Waist Strap

If you’re planning to wear the backpack for a prolonged period of time or have sensitive shoulders, it is helpful to use the waist strap. It will distribute much of the load to your pelvis. The pelvic bones are big, broad, and can bear more weight than the shoulders will tolerate comfortably.

Physio Tip 3- Pack the Bag Strategically

When packing your backpack, put the heavier items near the back of the backpack so that they will sit closest to your body. This minimizes the strain on your back muscles to hold the increased weight. It will also help to reduce the shifting of items in the backpack while you’re wearing it. When items in your backpack move unexpectedly, it can increase the strain in your back.

Physio Tip 4- Use Both Shoulder Straps and Ensure they Fit Snugly

It can be tempting to pop a backpack up loosely over one shoulder. However, holding an uneven load like that for any amount of time can cause uneven strain in the neck, shoulder, and back. It is much better to get it up over both shoulders. Once on both sides, ensure the backpack Is secured against your back and isn’t hanging down across the buttocks. The straps may have to be shortened to get the backpack into the optimal position against your back.

Physio Tip 5- Stand Upright

Once you have the backpack on, it is important to be conscious about the position your body is in. It can be tempting to lean forward to counter the weight of the backpack. Although leaning forward will reduce the work on the muscles of your back, it increases the stress on the joints of the neck and lower back.

Before strapping your backpack on this fall, take a few minutes to work through these physio tips to ensure that your backpack will work for you, not against you. If you’re planning to use a backpack frequently, book an assessment with a Zoomers physiotherapist. Our physiotherapists can check the fit of your backpack and review common strengthening exercises for the neck, middle, and lower back that can make it easier to carry the backpack more often and for longer periods of time comfortably.

Book an assessment with Zoomers

Use our online booking tool to find a time that works for you!