Many youngsters don’t mind carrying such a heavy burden regularly but in the long run, it can affect adversely if proper care is not taken right now.
“Carrying heavy school bags or laptop bags everyday can have several negative effects on your body posture and overall health. It can put excessive strain on your muscles, especially those in your shoulders, neck, and back. Over time, this can lead to muscle fatigue, discomfort, and pain,” Dr Atul Mishra, Director & HOD, Orthopaedic and Joint Replacement, Fortis Hospital, Noida.
It changes the posture to a great extent
Dr. Mishra explains that consistently carrying heavy bags can result in long-term changes to your posture. This can affect your spine’s natural curvature and lead to chronic pain and discomfort. Carrying a heavy bag often causes people to lean forward to counterbalance the weight. This forward head posture can strain your neck muscles, leading to neck pain, headaches, and even issues with the cervical spine.
Check for spinal misalignment, muscular imbalances
“The uneven distribution of weight, sometimes, by carrying a heavy bag on one shoulder can lead to spinal misalignment and muscular imbalances. This means that certain muscles become stronger while others become weaker, which can lead to further postural problems and pain. The strain from heavy bags can cause joints to become less mobile, reducing your range of motion. This can affect your ability to perform everyday activities comfortably,” explains Dr. Mishra.
In adolescents whose bodies are still growing, carrying heavy bags can potentially lead to spinal deformities like scoliosis, a condition characterized by an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine.
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What to do instead?
Carrying heavy bags daily, like school or laptop bags, can lead to various medical issues. It can strain your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, potentially causing back, shoulder, and neck pain. Over time, this strain might contribute to poor posture and musculoskeletal problems. It can also lead to discomfort and fatigue, affecting your overall well-being. It’s important to prioritize ergonomics and weight distribution to avoid these issues, says Dr. Debashish Chanda, Lead Consultant, Department of Orthopedics, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram.
Dr. Chanda recommends the following to prevent the negative effects of carrying heavy bags daily, you can:
- Pack Lightly: Only carry what you truly need. Remove any unnecessary items to reduce the weight of your bag.
- Use Proper Bags: Choose bags with padded straps and back support. Backpacks with wide, adjustable shoulder straps and a padded back panel are ideal.
- Distribute Weight: Place heavier items closer to your back and lighter items towards the outside of the bag. This helps maintain better balance and reduces strain.
- Wear Both Straps: Use both shoulder straps of the backpack to evenly distribute the weight across your shoulders and back. Wearing a single strap can lead to uneven stress.
- Adjust Straps: Ensure that the straps are adjusted to fit snugly but not too tight. The backpack should sit close to your back and not hang too low.
- Use Waist and Chest Straps: If available, use waist and chest straps to further distribute weight and stabilize the backpack.
- Limit Weight: Ideally, your backpack should not exceed 10-15% of your body weight. Keep this in mind when packing.
- Take Breaks: If you have to carry a heavy bag for an extended period, take breaks to rest your shoulders and back.
- Alternate Sides: If you’re carrying a bag on one side, switch sides periodically to balance the load.
- Strengthen Core Muscles: Engaging your core muscles can help support your back and reduce strain. Regular exercise can contribute to stronger muscles.
- Practice Good Posture: Maintain proper posture while walking and standing. This reduces the strain on your spine.
- Use Rolling Bags: If possible, consider using bags with wheels for heavy items. This can help reduce the load on your shoulders.
- Stay Active: Regular physical activity and stretching can help improve flexibility and reduce the risk of muscle imbalances.