Common school backpacks, with their off-axis design, create postural distortion which affects all movement and increases the load’s force on the body. Prolonged daily use of backpacks trains habits of forward head and “the slump”, often with knees hyperextended and pelvis dropped forward. This is especially a concern during the growth period when habits of poor posture influence the development of the skeleton for a lifetime. Posture distortion stresses the spine and most joints, not to mention the emotional attitude displayed in a downward slump.
BackTpack’s bilateral side-bag system trains good posture by loading on the spinal axis. Additionally, loads feel lighter in BackTpack because there is no extra force from being off-axis, as with a backpack.
Bone density is developed by loading the bones during youth, the crucial period of skeletal development. Therefore, a load is a good thing if applied axially with good body mechanics, and is comfortable to wear. The load carried by students using BackTpack trains postural strength rather than distortion, and feels lighter than if carried in a common backpack.
SCOPE OF PROBLEM
Back pain and injury is the leading medical cost in the workplace and the chief reason for pain medication prescriptions, contributing to the opioid epidemic. Habits of healthy posture and body mechanics are essential to prevent pain and injury, especially when carrying a load. School-age is the time to develop these habits.
In my practice as a physical therapist I see many young adults with preventable spinal problems who have not learned basic back health habits in youth: good posture, how to lift and handle a load properly, and how to use leg and abdominal muscles for back health habits. Until this instruction is in every school PE curriculum, BackTpack can provide movement and posture guidance needed to develop such healthy habits.
Currently, with their backpacks, students are unknowingly training the habits that contribute to back problems, such as poor posture and frequent twisting and bending with a heavy load in order to access contents or to sit down.
Healthy mechanics of the pelvis and legs are disturbed due to postural compensation from posterior loading. Therefore the legs and pelvis cannot function normally to do the “heavy lifting” and to move in ways that take stress off the spine. The body’s natural center of gravity is shifted, thereby creating imbalance. This poses additional safety concerns and limits movement potential. Additionally, prolonged weighting of the anterior hip from carrying in a forward lean may be a contributing factor to the increasing prevalence of Femoral Acetabular Impingement in adolescents, which frequently requires surgery.
With BackTpack, posture is aligned with gravity. Users have access to items at their sides so they don’t have to remove the bag to find things. The “Lap Strap” on the BackTpack encourages use of the legs to bend safely with good balance, doing the lifting for the spine. These trained habits carry over even when the load is removed, a foundation of back health habits and healthy movement for a lifetime.
Students who switch to BackTpack report ease of movement and considerable reduction of pain. Many young adults state “I wish I had had BackTpack when I was in school”, recalling daily misery related to their backpacks.
School is for physical, intellectual, and emotional learning for a lifetime of success and productivity. School should not be a time of pain, stress, and potential injury due to daily use of a carrying system designed for mountaineering, rather than for school. We designed BackTpack specifically for students as a path to physical comfort and convenience during their school day—for healthy development and back-healthy habits, with tall, confident posture into the future.
Marilyn M von Foerster PT