Lug it or leave it: backpacks and back pain

Alana George, Campus Carrier Asst. Arts & Living Editor

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Freshman Katie Henrich carries a blue North Face backpack that she has used since middle school. Photos by Alana George | Campus Carrier

Premature back pain is the unfortunate reality of school students all over the world, who are not educated early on about the importance of keeping their school load as light as possible to preserve their back health down the road.

According to the ScoliSmart Clinics website (offering comprehensive scoliosis treatment), 60 percent of students between the ages of 12 and 17 carry backpacks that weigh 10 percent (or more) of their body weight. The Veritas Health Spine Health website says that “a heavy backpack can pull on the neck muscles, contributing to headache, shoulder pain, lower back pain, and/or neck and arm pain.” These statistics correspond mostly to grade school children, but the problem can continue into our college years. A freshman and a senior offered their input on which backpack brand is good to use, what is essential in a college backpack and what they carry around that maybe they could do without.

Freshman Katie Henrich has a North Face backpack that she has used since middle school.

“It’s done me good…it fits a lot of stuff in it but it’s super durable,”Henrich said.

Senior Liz Swanigan carries a red Patagonia backpack that she has used for all of her years at Berry.

She also mentioned its nice back padding, which helps with the occasional back pain, she gets when her load is particularly heavy. Her essentials are a binder, a notebook or two, her pencil pouch full of pens and pencils, her student ID, her planner and her wallet, along with some hand sanitizer. Some non-essentials she carries are an occasional sweater (just in case she gets cold), some ear buds and she doesn’t always use her laptop or her iPad because some professors prohibit electronics in class.

Senior Liz Swanigan carries a Patagonia backpack, which she says, is a better backpack than the cheaper ones she carried in high school, though it still hurts her back some, .Her essentials are her planner, wallet, keys, pens and pencils, notebooks for classes, her computer and some mints. When she has moved out of her rooms for the summer, Swanigan would put random things she could not find a place for in her backpack. She also has some other things stuffed in it from her student teaching, including old papers, notecards, supplies to make friendship bracelets and a bag of stamps.

These testimonies suggest that for college girls, the essentials in a typical backpack are fairly universal; the non-essentials depend on the person and their varied activities in a typical day. As far as back pain is concerned, studies focus more on grade school children than college students, but it is still important to discuss. Some students still have residual back strain from grade school, but the last thing they need is for it to get worse. It is critical that college students do what they can to lighten their load in order to preserve their back health now and into further adulthood.

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