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  • Writer's picturePortia

Tis The Season

Tis the season …..not for Obon, Holi or Christmas, but for backpacks, rucksacks, knapsacks and trolley suitcases …...with brand names, Marvel Characters and Superheroes.

I notice the rounded shoulders and spines that carry them and shudder. I see what resembles frozen shoulders and the fast flick at the wrist. I flinch.

Whatever became of those 7 and 8 year olds who walked upright and ‘business like,’ convinced that their Grandmothers’ eyes were more efficient than drones?

Are we out of stock of teenagers who walk with easy, rhythmic movements at shoulder and hip and made the same Grandmothers proud?

How now the next generations buried under these contraptions which are one modification away from hiking backpacks?!

The long, thin straps on the poorly made vessels encourage youngsters to round their shoulders. Most of the time, the books and other items are unevenly packed. Sometimes there are only a few items and they roll around.

The body’s natural response is to want to balance itself in relation to the unevenly packed or moving load. It, therefore, displaces portions of the upper and middle back or and hike one hip. In other words, in a effort to allow the body that feeling of balance, the muscles along the entire spine, through the hips as well as transversus abdominis are prepared to exert uneven pull.

There are long term consequences to carrying the rucksacks incorrectly during the formative years.

All the while they are merrily going to school to learn well, these young people are prime candidates for neck, shoulder and back pain. In extreme cases and over extended periods of time, spinal deviations become the norm; kyphosis and scoliosis can result.

After they leave school, too many of the next generation stand and walk with the torso angled slightly forward. Instead of walking with a free, casual swing at the shoulder, the range of motion there is small and robotic.

A knapsack, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, in his 2nd edition of Low Back Disorders, Stuart McGill details how he used correctly constructed and loaded backpacks as one means to reduce the load on the spine and to rehabilitate the lower back. Granted, his candidates were experiencing back pain - the stage we would rather our youngsters never get to.

Here are a few guidelines for choosing and packing rucksacks:-

  • Wide, cushioned straps which serve to open the shoulders;

  • Pack the load evenly in the sack

  • Place the load in the lower part and centre of the backpack. The load will nestle into the natural curve of the lumbar spine.

  • Ensure that the load is stable.

Maybe our children need to carry satchels in one hand and lunch kits in the other, like in the old days. Maybe the key is the adult who feels that there is a connection between good posture, the spine as the extension of the brain and the ability to focus in class.

We look at trolley suitcases while tis still the season.

Low Back Disorders: Evidence-based Prevention and Rehabilitation / Stuart McGill. - 2nd ed. Pg 83, 84, 87

Right and Wrong Ways to Wear a Backpack to Prevent Pain / Wendy Bumgardner

Effect of Backpack Load Placement on Posture and Spinal Curvature in Prepubescent Children / Brackley HM, et al. Work. 2009.

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