Diary of a Fit Patriot: Backpack, Backpack!

Posted: April 6, 2016 at 9:38 am

By: Alison M. Hall

Having a Dora the Explorer flashback? Dora carried that purple backpack everywhere, and it didn’t seem to hurt her back. But how about your backpack? According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, at least 14,000 students suffered from injuries caused by backpack use in 2013. The American Chiropractic Association gives tips for safe backpack use.

  • Make sure your backpack fits you correctly. Ibackpackst should not be wider than your torso, and it should not hang more than 4 inches below your waistline. If your backpack hangs too low, it increases the weight on your shoulders and can cause you to lean forward when walking. Shoulder straps should be adjustable and set so your backpack is in the middle of your back.
  • Your backpack should have 2 wide padded shoulder straps. Unpadded straps can place pressure on your neck and shoulders. Wear your backpack on both shoulders. Please! Wearing it on one shoulder causes one shoulder to drop lower than the other. This can lead to neck and muscle spasms and lower back pain.
  • Choose a backpack with a padded back. It is more comfortable, and it helps keep any books or supplies from poking you in the back.
  • Your backpack should have multiple compartments. This way your contents are positioned most effectively. Try to place the heaviest items closer to your body, and place pointy items away from your back.
  • Ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” about anything heavy. If it fits your schedule, it’s worth it to make that extra trip to your car or dorm to switch out heavy books.

If you feel you do have back or postural damage from your backpack, try the following stretching and strengthening exercises.

  • Cat to cow: start on hands and knees. Pull your navel in and tip your pelvis first then round your back. Then drop your pelvis to slightly arch your back.
  • Neck stretch: Gently drop your left ear to your left shoulder while dropping your right shoulder away from your right ear. Hold 10-15 seconds then switch sides.
  • Strengthen your entire core. Your core is not just your abs—remember to strengthen your back too.

Follow these tips, and you can do your “We Did It” happy dance just like Dora. Or just have a healthy back. It’s really up to you.


ACA’s Backpack Safety Checklist, American Chiropractic Association, www.acatoday.org

Bad News About Backpacks, IDEA Fitness Journal, October 2015, Vol. 12, no. 9, p14