Sometimes my “school days” seem like a distant memory. Which I’m okay with. There are plenty of things I don’t really miss: tests, grades, busy work, etc. On the list of things I don’t miss from that former student life is carrying around a massive backpack. I will often see students of all ages dragging their feet behind some gigantic container full of books, lunches, and the kitchen sink. With their heads jolted forward to counterbalance the weight, I often wonder: There’s got to be a better way, right?
With the increasing workload our students are taking on, and increasing campus sizes across the nation, backpacks seem like one of the inevitable curses of education.
But it’s not just the backpacks.
Over sized purses, stuffed-to-the-brim wallets, heavy brief cases, diaper bags the size of China… heck, even carrying the baby–they all take their toll:
- The spine is thrown off, which can cause considerable pain throughout the back, damage to the spinal cord, and complications for the whole body
- The extra weight can affect the arches of the feet, the pelvic floor, and unnecessary muscle tension (resulting in some connective tissue issues)
- The head is often shifted forward to compensate for the bulk of the bag which takes us one step closer to that “old man’s hump”.
- Lifting the heavy object can also herniated a vertebral disc. (= not good.)
- Even with non-heavy purses or other objects that we carry with us, the body must bind one side which throws off the natural rhythm, swing, and stride—creating imbalances and pain.
So what can be done?
There are times when we are required to “bring it all” with us, probably why backpacks were first invented. Traveling, work situations, school, babysitting–they often require us to “be prepared.” Unfortunately, all those “just in case” items are extra baggage (literally) for us to deal with.
When you find yourself needing to carry a lot (whether in a backpack or something else), consider the following tips to at least ease the burden:
1. Go Digital. I generally try to promote a non-digital life here, but there are instnaces where technology can serve a great purpose. Consider investing in a digital reader like the Kindle. It may not be the cheapest option, but could be a wise investment, especially if you love to read.
2. Only take what you need. Be more realistic about what you will or will not use in the day and cut back some serious material weight from your body. Moms, this is a big one for you. You don’t need the giant Texas-sized bag. Put it down, throw a few diapers in your (small) purse and walk away. And try to help your kids from over-stuffing their backpacks.
3. Park your backpack when you can. If you are a student, use a locker. If you are at work, find a secure spot to place your belongings.
4. Release the shoulders. One of the big problems with purses and bags (or carrying anything for that matter) is that sometimes we subconsciously try to lift the object by using our shoulders or neck. Instead, allow your shoulders to release down with the weight of the bag and feel your spine lengthen out the top of your head.
5. Consider switching models. A over-sized and over-stuffed backpack can make a mess of your spine. However, there are some great bags in the market that do a better job (as long as they are worn properly).
6. Wear your backpack properly. This means wearing both straps (and the waist strap if the bag is heavy). You want to keep the weight as close to the body as possible. Organize the objects neatly in the bag so they don’t shuffle around. Keep them as close to the back as possible.
7. Explore freedom. Don’t be a slave to your things. Every now and then when you’re out on the town bring just the necessities. I love to tuck my driver’s license and a debit card into my back pocket and leave the rest behind. Freedom is great.
What do you think?
(top featured image by striatic, Flickr)
This piece is from the “original” Thank Your Body Archives. Originally posted February 5, 2010. Updated and improved for your reading pleasure.