Heavy Backpacks May Damage Nerves, Muscles and Skeleton, Study Suggests
Trudging from place to place with heavy weights on our backs is an everyday reality, from schoolchildren toting textbooks in backpacks to firefighters and soldiers carrying occupational gear. Muscle and skeletal damage are very real concerns. Now Tel Aviv University researchers say that nerve damage, specifically to the nerves that travel through the neck and shoulders to animate our hands and fingers, is also a serious risk.
The pressure of heavy loads carried on the back have the potential to damage the soft tissues of the shoulder, causing microstructural damage to the nerves.
The result could be anything from simple irritation to diminished nerve capacity, ultimately limiting the muscles’ ability to respond to the brain’s signals, inhibiting movement of the hand and the dexterity of the fingers. In practice, this could impact functionality, reducing a worker’s ability to operate machinery, or limiting a child’s writing or drawing capacity.
These results apply to people from all walks of life, says Prof. Gefen. Many professions and leisure activities, such as hiking or traveling, involve carrying heavy equipment on the back.
Best to wear a backpack on both shoulders, and should wear no more than 10% of your body weight.