Textbooks, binders and more create a pain in the backpack

September 11, 2012

By Alice Ko

Hall Monitor
Alice Ko
Issaquah High School

Without a doubt, it is an ordinary sight to see students walking to school. One might even call it unassuming. However, there is nothing unassuming about the backpacks students are carrying on their backs.

Many probably assume that teenagers are perfectly capable of carrying around heavy backpacks. However, as a high school student, I find that it is not hard to notice the relief my peers express once they free themselves of the burden of textbooks, binders and maybe even a laptop on their shoulders. Most of them simply rotate their aching shoulders and massage their necks until they finally give a sigh of relief. All better? Think again.

Orthopedists recommend a backpack weight no more than 10 percent of an individual’s body weight. With this in mind, consider that many students are carrying around backpacks weighing 20-30 pounds. The math just doesn’t seem to work. Heavy backpacks have resulted in consequences.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic surgeons, 60 percent of orthopedists have reported seeing adolescent patients with back and shoulder pain caused by lugging around heavy backpacks. This can lead to chronic spine or back problems, such as scoliosis, due to the unnecessary stress added to the spine.

Although it is unsettling to think our trusty backpacks can counterintuitively hurt us, there are ways to help give your back a break. Try not to let your backpack hang more than a couple of inches below the waist. The lower it hangs, the more weight the shoulders have to carry.

And though it may seem fashionable, refrain from slugging your backpack over one shoulder to avoid uneven weight distribution. Also, to alleviate the weary shoulders of their heavy burden, try opting for a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps.

So yes, backpacks are essential to students. But, this is not Dora’s neat little purple knapsack that belts out cute songs we are dealing with. Rather, it’s something big and bad. In the end, I guess our backpacks do have our backs. In a lot of trouble, that is.

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