Most of us, especially those work in a 'regular' office, have become used to carrying too many things around wherever we go. Between the phone, charger, battery pack, laptop, headphones, and other gadgets, grabbing a small bag isn't possible anymore, so a backpack is a must.
When buying a new backpack, you might check to see the number of storage compartments, or how smoothly the zip functions, but how many us actually think about comfort or ergonomics? The answer is very few, and that's a big problem because picking the wrong backpack can be really bad for your back.
Picking the right backpack involves finding one that doesn't strain your back and ensures that weight is evenly distributed across your shoulders. This can be surprisingly tricky and that is why we spoke to doctors and people who make backpacks to figure out how to choose the right one for your needs.
Dr Garima Anandani, Clinical Director, Qi Back and Spine Clinic, says the bag has to be lightweight and sturdy. "Back support is vital. The bag must have a cushion that supports the back. Equal distribution between shoulder straps is also necessary," she explains.
This is backed up by Lalit Kumar, co-founder of Dcode Technologies, a company that is set to ship its first backpack - Energy Sac - this year. "The backpack must offer cushioning so it rests on the back firmly. It shouldn't hurt your posture," he says.
An overloaded backpack that's not worn properly is unlikely to cause any direct injury, but can be a major contributor to back pain, which will have a negative effect on your overall health.
Nearly all backpacks come with adjustable straps but most people rarely adjust them, which can lead to all kinds of problems.
Nithiij Arenja, who's the director of Trinity HealthTech, an organisation dedicated to integrated health solutions, says the length of a backpack's strap is critical. "If (the strap is) long, the backpack will "lean backward" instead of pulling straight "downward". This backward "leaning" of the backpack, makes the carrier's body lean forward," he told Gadgets 360 via email. "This eventually leads to either a hunched spine, or elevated shoulders, or both- and of course poor posture."
This means that the strap should be adjusted so that the bag rests close against one's back and doesn't hang below the waist.
Dr. Anandani also advises people to steer clear of sling bags. "Carrying sling bags causes one-sided strain," she says, referring to people who experience pain on one shoulder and not the other. She adds that one needs to check that the bag is very light when empty.
It's also important to check if the backpack is the right size for you, Kumar says. "Match the size of the backpack with your torso and look for a backpack with the right capacity for your needs," he adds. You obviously don't need to buy a 60-litre rucksack for your daily commute to work, and you should take care to avoid a backpack that's too big for what you carry.
You might come across recommendations suggesting backpacks with waist straps, that can be cinched across the front to distribute the weight. This isn't actually necessary for most of us though. Dr. Anandani says that unless the bag you're carrying weighs more than 7Kgs, you can skip the waist strap.. "If you have back pain, carry some weight in carry bags, and not all of it in the backpack," she suggests.
Arenja also advises against carrying heavy loads. He says, "Carrying too heavy a load can force your spine to bend backward, causing you to pull forward to maintain balance. This action can make your spine compress unnaturally, which can create hip and back pain and a hunched posture."
"Back pain is often seen in people with sedentary jobs, those who sit for long hours," Dr. Anandani adds. Taking regular breaks and checking one's posture are two tips to avoid this, she says.