Are backpacks bad for backs?

Backpack Graphic 1Emilee Kuschel



Julie Piotrowski, Nevada nursing instructor, shared her thoughts about backpacks and how they affect backs. “I have some pretty strong feelings on this subject, as the department in which I work does not have lockers, and I see and hear from students daily discussing this very subject! Many have complained about pain in their backs!”

Piotrowski is not the only one who has seen backpacks cause pain to student’s backs. Sarah Bellairs, a psychology major at Crowder, shared that only a few weeks ago she injured her back when lifting a heavy backpack onto her shoulder.

“A couple weeks ago I actually pulled a muscle when I was swinging my backpack over my shoulder, so I’ve definitely experienced some back pain from that,” Bellairs said.

As for a solution, Piotrowski suggested that perhaps Crowder could offer lockers and have the students purchase more paper-back books. “I have allowed my nursing students to leave their ‘lab bags’ in my office. Luckily, I have the space to offer this. Not all instructors do. Not all departments have the space to place lockers, either, unfortunately.”

Harvard Medical School gives some suggestions to help avoid back pain from backpacks:

  1. Wear backpacks with wide, padded straps, and always wear both straps.
  2. Never carry more than 15-20% of total body weight.
  3. When lifting heavy items, lift from the knees instead of the arms.