The average sixth grader carries 18.4 pounds in his backpack, and the average handbag carries 6.27 pounds’ worth of lipstick and keys. Nobody seems to have done any research about the weight of the average briefcase, but man bags have done more than merely embarrass the fashion police—they’ve caused an increase in back and shoulder pain. That’s apart from the luggage you carry to the airport and the heavy lifting you do during your work day.
Back pain has become the norm rather than the exception throughout the world, and luggage is adding to the burden. It’s children’s spinal health that’s most at risk because bad back habits are easily entrenched, and young shoulders are prone to neurological damage, which can eventually affect finger dexterity.
Studies on Heavy Bags and Spine Health
A 2014 Spine study found that heavy backpacks cause disc compression that can have repercussions in adulthood. Pre-adolescents often carry as much as 30% of their body weight. The suggested upper limit is 10%, and this should be carried in a way that distributes weight evenly across both sides of the body. The core muscles should be doing most of that work, and for those with spinal curvature, even perfect carrying technique cannot prevent spasms and pain.
Offloading school backpacks can certainly help, but the problem has less to do with weight as it does off-axis loading. Ergonomic backpacks help children to carry their weight on their vertical axis while encouraging better posture. High seated, close fitting backpacks prevent the slouching traditional backpacks cause.
Adults can prevent baggage woes by developing core muscle strength, but the best solution is a simple one: carry less. Choose small briefcases and purses to remove the temptation of carrying too much weight. Make a habit of clearing your bags of clutter. As any backpacker can tell you, every little bit of weight removed helps.