Event informs students about backpack safety

Eileen Mansoorian

Back safety was the issue at hand during the “Be Right Back” event on April 10 at the Plaza del Sol.

The event, which took place from noon to 2 p.m., brought to light a topic to which most students don’t give much thought: The weight they carry in their backpacks. Different methods were utilized to get the messages across about the importance of the weight people carry in their backpacks, from information about back safety to a fashion show.

“Students are always stressed,” said Elvia Morales, a peer educator for Alive and Well, which helped organize the event. “They could be hurting their back and they don’t even know it.”

Morales became involved with Alive and Well in October 2007 through her community action class for which she had to observe an organization. After speaking to the adviser of the program, Amy Reichbach, health educator at the Klotz Student Health Center, Morales said she decided to join the program as a peer educator.

The subject of back safety came up last semester, Morales said. About a month and a half ago, the peer educators started to contact people to organize the event.

One aspect of the event included students getting their backpacks weighed and having chiropractic interns from the health center give them advice about the proper way to wear backpacks and tell them how much their backpacks should weigh.

The backpack should not weigh more than 10 percent of the body weight of its owner, said Elias Murillo, a chiropractic intern.

The side effects of people carrying more than 10 percent of their bodyweight on their backs range from back pain to muscle spasms.

“Even functional scoliosis is one of the effects,” Murillo said.

One of the effects of wearing the backpack very low is the vertebrae pinch on each other, Murillo said.

Theo Edwards, urban studies major, handed over his backpack to the interns for them to weigh. His backpack came in at around four pounds, far less than the 10 percent he should ideally carry.

“I’ve heard about people wearing too much weight in their backpacks,” Edwards said.

During high school, Edwards said he experienced severe back problems as a result of carrying a heavy backpack.

Sara Ortega, an environmental occupational health major, also came in under the 10 percent mark.

Ortega suffered from a lower back injury in the past and is more conscious of her every move.

“I moved it up,” Ortega said, after the interns advised her to readjust how she was wearing her backpack.

Joshua D. Chrystal, a chiropractic intern, said, “The body adapts to the stresses imposed on it.”

People need to lengthen the muscles that are short and strengthen the muscles that are weak, Chrystal said.

Students can visit the health center and receive chiropractic care for $5.

“I think there’s three things people need,” Chrystal said. “They should have a dentist. They should have an optometrist and they should have a chiropractor.”

During the second part of the event, Alive and Well organized a fashion show with students from various organizations on campus modeling different types of backpacks. Participants for the show were members from Hermanas Unidas, T.R.E.N.D.S. and Alive and Well.

As the students walked onto the stage sporting a certain type of backpack, a chiropractic intern spoke to the audience and explained why certain backpacks were good or bad.

The interns stressed that the best way to prevent back problems is to carry a rolling backpack.

“We’re trying to introduce the cool factor,” Reichbach said in regard to pulling around rolling backpacks.

Aiming to get students to relieve their backs from all the weight, Alive and Well gave away a rolling backpack to the winner of a raffle.

“I don’t know if it will change their habits, but it will make them think about it,” Morales said. “Maybe they’ll lighten their load.”

The Alive and Well Peer Education Program and the Klotz Student Health Center organized the event.