pack mule syndrome back pain neck pain

Pack Mule Syndrome

Have you ever seen a little mule overloaded with packs and supplies almost as big as the poor animal itself?

These days with every greater proliferation of smartphones, tablets, laptops, portable game consoles, and other assorted electronic devices, it is all too common that men, women, and even children are loading themselves up like pack mules. And carrying heavy bags, purses, backpacks, and totes could lead to painful issues down the road. Numbness or tingling in arms and legs, strained muscles and connective tissues, headaches and migraines, back pain and neck injury, and even scoliosis and osteoarthritis can result from this “pack mule syndrome”.

The end of summer is the time for returning to school. Yet how many school children are heading back to their classroom hauling backpacks that are a big percentage of their body weight?

With books, folders, homework, laptops, lunchbox, these stuffed packs can easily weigh 15 lbs or more. For students who are only 50-80 lbs, that is too much for their small frame to carry without consequences.

“Our pain clinic see young people with back and neck pain produced by hauling way too much school contents around with them. While the pain can be moderate, it can flare up to an intolerable level. That’s pretty rough when you’re facing a mid-term exam,” relates pain specialist staff at Capitol Pain Institute.

It is not just school kids at risk. When was the last time you weighed your briefcase? Your laptop? Or your purse? Adults, as well as children, can use these tips to reduce their risk of back and neck injury:

  • Don’t be a pack mule. A person should not carry more than 10-15% of his own bodyweight in assorted packs, bags, and cases. Make multiple trips if needed. Leave the extra stuff in the car or desk and pick them up as required.
  • Be a smart packer. Put the heaviest items on the bottom, and then distribute the weight as evenly as possible.
  • It may be cool to carry your pack in one hand or over one shoulder. But that only generates unbalanced forces on muscles, tendons, and nerves. For a backpack, use both straps and carry it centered on your mid-back. For laptop case or purse, strap it diagonally across your body to spread out the weight. If carrying more than one items, don’t overload one arm, shoulder, or hand with them. Share the load with both arms.

For those with back or neck pain, help is available now. Capitol Pain Institute provides personalized care, diagnosis, imaging, advanced non-surgical treatment options as well as surgical procedures as needed all under one roof. Let our pain management physicians and pain consultants help relieve your suffering. Contact us today for an appointment.

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