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Health Danger: Backpacks



spotlight features Bags pose the potential to harm students’ backs

LAUREN PINO Reporter chool has just started, and BV West students are already making good use of their school bags. Many girls are using a shoulder bag, and there is always a sizable group of students toting around messenger or single-strap bags. The truth is that the new Vera Bradley bag and a variety of other bags can actually harm students, mildly to severely, by damaging the body. In 2010, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that nearly 28,000 people were treated by a medical professional for backpack-related injuries such as strains, sprains, dislocations and fractures. This does not include the majority of people who just pop a painkiller or two to soothe their aches and pains. An uncountable supply of different backpacks, singlestrap bags, and totes are on the market waiting to become students’ next school bags; but among the harmful bags, there must be an ideal backpack. “The best backpacks have two [padded] straps with even distribution of weight between your shoulders, that rests in the middle of your back,” physical therapist, Susan Krouse said. According to Krouse, the wrong type of bag can cause not only back pain, neck pain and other neck-related problems but also headaches and even jaw pain. “Imbalanced shoulders cause the most damage [with the majority of injuries caused by it],” Krouse said. Beyond that, if a person does not mend his or her harmful backpack ways, there are serious long-term problems that can appear after a while. One such issue is curving of the spine, or scoliosis, which is a severe condition, but there are more dangerous problems that could come up. “When your nerves get involved, it is a serious issue,” Krouse said. The most serious danger of a bad bag is nerve compression. Nerve compression is commonly caused by prolonged or repeated pressure from some form of external force, in this

case a bag pulling down upon the body disproportionately every school day. If a person already suffers from certain diseases or disorders, such as diabetes, he or she is even more likely to suffer from nerve compression. Of all the forms of nerve compression, sciatica, the nerve compression of a spinal nerve root, is one of the most dangerous. Sciatica can cause pain from the lower back all the way to the foot. “You could have numbness in one of your arms or have a tingling sensation in that arm,” Krouse said. Other symptoms involve muscular weakness and difficulty with motor skills. “It was easy to just sling it on, and it had a lot of space,” senior Cameron Dobson said. Dobson wore messenger bags for the first three years of high school, but he is using a two-strap backpack this year. Like others, he had liked the simplicity of the oneshoulder, cross-body bag. After three years though, the bag started to get to him. The pain in his neck and arms led him to make a change this year to a better alternative. Though he faced that pain from his bag, Dobson was not aware of the dangers his messenger bag posed to his health. Within a minute of explaining what could have happened to him if he continued using a messenger bag, Dobson was shocked. “That scares me,” Dobson said. “I don’t want to be twenty years old with back problems. It’s not good for your health. It’s not good for your life.” Still, students are unknowingly subjecting themselves to a risk. “It’s easier to use and has more space than my last bag,” freshman Jordan Carlson said. Carlson uses a large, one-shoulder tote to carry her things. She shared the same reasons for using a tote that Dobson had for using a messenger bag. However, Carlson explained that she had not had any pain from the bag and did not see it as dangerous. In Dobson’s case, a wrong bag led to pain during his three years of using it. In Carlson’s case, she is just starting the year out, like any other student. Over time, she may start developing pains in her back, neck, shoulders, or arms. Students, who use shoulder or single-strap bags, could also start having those types of pains. Hopefully, students can fix their ways or become aware of the dangers before they face serious consequences.


Four Bad Habits make for a Bad Back 3. Cause: Wearing high heels and flip-flops.

1. Cause: Sitting more than standing

Fix: Sit at a 135 degree angle and lean back every once and a while to relieve stress on your back.

2. Cause: Sleeping on an old mattress.

4. Cause: Bad eating habits.

Fix: Replace your mattress every 5 to 7 years and pick one that is a medium firm comfort.

Information from:

Fix: Keep your walking in high heels or flip-flops limited, carry comfy shoes with you for driving and when you may have to walk long distances. Fix: Avoid too much caffeine and processed foods. Add more whole grains and protein to your everyday diet.

BVW page 9 Cause: Sleeping on an old mattress. Cause: Sitting more than standing Cause: Bad eating habits. Fix: Avoid too much caffeine and...