The Impatient Patient: What’s got your back?

By Renee Wang

We as students carry a lot of weight on our backs — from the literal weight of the backpacks we carry daily to the mounting pressures of future success. Either way, both weights are an uncomfortable reality for our health.

Our backpacks are heavy, with binders and notebooks crammed in every nook and cranny. Although we only carry our backpacks for a few moments, those moments do add up — from in between the six or seven classes we go to, to walking home for schools.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, 14,000 people suffer from injuries involving backpacks. There are a multitude of issues that stem from a heavy backpack, from discomfort to the back, neck and shoulder to, of course, posture issues.

Illustration by Sunania Nayak

The most serious concern: A heavy backpack could actually compress your spine. A study done in 2010 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information discovered that the constant and continual weight pressing against our backs can actually cause the spinal cord to compress, and in turn actually shrink us. Consequently, the wear and tear can cause the discomfort to become chronic.

Rolling backpacks are an easy solution to this dilemma. After all, the weight is off your back and there is still enough space to stuff your backpacks to your heart’s content.

Furthermore, while I want to assert that there is no correlation between a loaded backpack and scoliosis, rolling backpacks are a good alternative for those with it as a pre-existing condition.

But rolling backpacks have fallen out of favor as we’ve grown older.

The logical reasons would be that in a crowded school, they are an inconvenience to carry up the stairs. Another aspect is the aesthetic, combined with the stigma that a rolling backpack is “uncool.”

In all honesty, there is no definite solution to the heavy backpack dilemma — but then again, in all honesty, someone taking preventative measures for their spinal health should not be a cause for ostracization or snarky remarks.

The fact of the matter is that being concerned for your health should not be seen as “uncool.” If your backpack is causing you discomfort, this is not a cause for suppression.

As a general rule of thumb, a backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of your actual weight. The distribution of your items is important; place heavy items at the bottom.

Back pain and rolling backpacks, oh my! Deteriorating spinal health is not a fun game to play.