It’s September which means back to school! Parents and students alike are all too familiar with the first-day-of-school overfilled backpacks carrying the necessities to get your child through the school year. But have you considered the consequences these heavy backpacks can have on the body?

Perhaps you or your child has experienced discomfort in your upper back when carrying a backpack that feels heavy? One may start to notice an achy burning sensation near the shoulder blades or neck that usually goes away quickly when the backpack is removed. What is happening in the body to cause this pain?

Often times, when we are carrying a heavy backpack, to prevent our body from falling backward, we instinctively lean forward to counterbalance. Leaning forward for extended periods of time moves our body out of its ideal alignment, placing additional stress on our joints, ligaments and muscles, thereby causing pain. If we continue to maintain this forward lean position, we then place our body at risk of an injury. 

So, what should we do when we experience this pain from carrying heavy backpacks and how can we prevent an injury?

Check your posture! Ensure that you are wearing both straps on your backpack, your body is not too forward bent and that your shoulders pulled down and back away from your ears.

Movement breaks! Remove the backpack, roll your shoulders backwards a few times, then continue your walk. 

More trips, lighter loads! If possible, rather than packing all your supplies into your backpack at once, try to pack only a few items at a time, bringing your back-to-school essentials to your classroom over the span of a few days. 

See your physiotherapist! Physiotherapists can perform assessments to analyze your posture, see which muscles might need to be stretched or strengthened and provide you with exercises to help manage or prevent pain. 

Please contact Cotton Mill Rehab should you have any questions about physiotherapy or if you would like to book an appointment.

Wishing all the teachers, students and parents a wonderful Back to School season! 

-Hilary Veenstra