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As the school bell rings across the country this month, students will be grabbing their backpacks without giving much thought to how the bags are affecting their health. An estimated 79 million students from preschool to graduate level add heavy books and school supplies into their backpacks annually and many of those will suffer from back, neck, and shoulder pain as a result. As many as 7,000 people will be treated this year for a direct backpack injury, from school-aged children to athletes. Injuries can occur from backpack overload and balance issues because the walking pattern changes when a large load is placed on the back. Gait changes can result in falls, causing broken hands or fractured bones. To help avoid backpack injury and back pain, the best solution is to lighten the load by carrying only what it absolutely necessary. Wear backpack straps on both shoulders to evenly distribute weight.
If possible, keep an extra set of books at home so they don't have to be carried back and forth every day. Alternate between backpacks and rolling bags to minimize the stress on the affected areas. Don't carry more than 5 to 10 percent of body weight in the bag. For a 100-pound adolescent, that is a maximum of 10 pounds. Place heavier items closest to your back to reduce neck strain. Purchase a backpack that has wide, padded straps and a belt to help dispense the load equally. Adjust the backpack so that straps are tight and the pack sits no more than four inches below the waist. If you find yourself or your child in an emergency situation from a backpack injury, go directly to an orthopedic doctor that offers same-day appointments. An emergency room physician will simply refer orthopedic injuries to a specialist which could take a week or more to be seen, while furthering injury when not diagnosed properly.
Keep your back slightly arched. If you bow your back out, this will cause your shoulders to lift up on the straps and thereby bear some of the weight, which you do not want. Drink plenty of water while hiking. Do not wait till the hike is over. Eat something light at regular intervals. Campfire or No Campfire? As I am going through the summer here in Montana, I am getting a lesson on wildfires. Many are caused by humans while others are caused by lightening. Sparks from campfires can easily drift up to a mile and may land in some very combustible location. I have been rethinking the part that a campfire plays in my camping experience. Big, blazing fires that go on late into the night are certainly not necessary. Food can be prepared over a portable cookstove that could fit in one's pocket. The pleasure of a campfire isn't worth the risk of burning thousands of acres of wilderness.
At the very least, my campfires will be kept small and for a short duration. Of course, when the fire danger is too high, campfires are illegal anyway. You too might consider making changes in your camping with regard to campfires a s well. My time in Montana has been greatly enriched by my commitment to learn the skills of backpacking and wilderness camping. The benefits to me are that I have been able to see places that relatively few people see. Also, peace of mind and physical fitness are a result of this endeavor. I'd like to encourage others to try this wonderful way of seeing the world around us. 0 of 8192 characters usedPost CommentNo HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites. Backpacking is one of my absolute favorite activities. A week ago I did an ice climbing trip on the backside of Yosemite.