Kessler News

Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation Helps to "Lighten the Load"

Specialists offer tips for carrying backpacks, bags, and briefcases

October 12, 2009

West Orange, NJ – With school underway, attention is focused on backpack safety. But carrying heavy bags, briefcases, computers, luggage and even handbags can affect anyone.

"We are seeing an increasing number of injuries to the shoulder area, neck and upper back musculature, and the low back in both children and adults as the result of carrying bags that are too heavy or too large," said Jeffrey M. Cole, M.D., Director of Electrodiagnostic Medicine and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation. "Strains and sprains of the muscles and ligaments are the most common injuries and can be extremely painful, even causing permanent damage in some cases. While most injuries can be treated with medication, rest and occupational therapy, is the best 'cure' is avoiding injury in the first place."

According to Kessler occupational therapist Kim Hreha, "Students of all ages load books, computers and other paraphernalia into their backpacks without thinking about how much they are carrying. The same holds true for workers who pack their computers, files and more into briefcases. Women who choose to carry fashionable, but oversized and stuffed handbags, are also at significant risk of injury. Even travelers face possible injury when the overpack their luggage, carry it incorrectly and lift it improperly."

To help "lighten the load" and avoid some of the potential risks of injury, Kessler suggests:

  • Choose a bag that is proportionate in size (10-15 percent of body weight) and no larger than what is needed.
  • Look for lighter materials and durable construction in a briefcase.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so the pack fits snugly across the back and weight is evenly distributed. If the bag has a waist strap, use it.
  • Switch shoulders or hands frequently to avoid muscle fatigue.
  • Lift bags correctly and carefully, using your legs rather than your back.
  • Choose a handbag wisely, using smaller compact purses whenever possible.
  • When shopping, distribute contents among several bags, rather than putting everything in one.
  • When traveling, plan in advance what you will wear in advance and pack only those items. Consider using two small suitcases as opposed to one large one.
  • Pack bags properly with the heaviest objects at the bottom or closest to the body and pack only what is necessary.
  • Lift bags correctly and carefully, using your legs rather than your back. If stowing luggage overhead on an airplane, lift slowly and carefully on the seat, then lift it into the compartment.

 

More tips from Kessler Institute to help "lighten the load"

General guidelines

  • Choose a bag that is proportionate in size to the individual and no larger than what is really needed.
  • Pack bags properly with the heaviest objects at the bottom or closest to the body and pack only what is necessary.
  • Bags should be less than about 10-15 percent of body weight.
  • Lift bags correctly and carefully, using your legs rather than your back.
Backpacks
  • Choose the right size back for the student, one that will fit snugly and rest in the curve of the lower back, but no more than four inches below the waist.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so the pack fits snugly across the back and weight is evenly distributed. If the bag has a waist strap, use it.
  • Load heaviest of items closest to the back of the pack and arrange smaller items so they don’t slide around.
  • If the backpack is heavy on a consistent basis, consider using a bag on wheels.
Briefcases and messenger bags
  • Choose bags with padded straps and built-in compartments to help distribute weight more evenly.
  • Look for lighter materials and durable construction in a briefcase.
  • Switch shoulders or hands frequently to avoid muscle fatigue.
Luggage and travel bags
  • When traveling, carry a suitcase that is made of light material such as vinyl or canvas with wheels and extended padded handles.
  • Plan in advance what you will wear in advance and pack only those items. Consider using two small suitcases as opposed to one large one.
  • If stowing luggage overhead on an airplane, lift slowly and carefully on the seat, then lift it into the compartment.
Handbags
  • Choose a handbag wisely, using smaller compact purses whenever possible.
  • Eliminate unnecessary items and use travel size make-up and/or toiletries.
  • Alternate hands or shoulders when carrying bags. Also, try not to lift your shoulder to keep the straps from slipping.
Shopping bags
  • Distribute contents among several bags, rather than putting everything in one.
  • Avoid carrying all your purchases in on hand. Use both hands.

 

Back to Newsroom

Font
A
A
A