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How do I put on my backpack so I don't give myself carpal tunnel? No, seriously.
December 9, 2011 2:16 PM   Subscribe

How do I put on my backpack so I don't give myself carpal tunnel? No, seriously.

So my left wrist on the right edge by the wrist has had some issues this year, and the doctor said it was probably impending carpal tunnel. I'm right-handed, so this seemed kind of...odd to have happen on the non-dominant hand. What the hell do I do with that hand that the other doesn't do?

Well, I figured it out after I left the doctor: I go around all the time with a giant LL Bean backpack on (I'm a small-framed short girl), carrying a lot of crap because I have no car and spent 75%-95% of the day not at home. I slip my right arm through the right strap and then have to contort my hand around in various ways to get the left strap on. The left strap always twists itself as I put it on, so I have to straighten it out. All of this does yank on that end of my hand. I told this to the doctor today and she said that sounded likely to be the culprit.

But...seriously, I have no idea how to NOT put on my backpack like that. Googling for "how to put on a backpack" just leads to videos of "how to put on a giant camping backpack," which isn't the case here. Wearing the straps really loose hasn't helped this any, plus makes it even less comfy/secure to wear on my back. I'm just kind of stumped. I'm not likely to start carrying less stuff (gym clothes, a few books, lunch, and whatever I'm working on fills that puppy up) around and I kind of don't want to resort to dragging a wheelie bag behind me every day.

Is there some kind of trick I'm missing to put the backpack on like a normal person, or at least not making the strap twist around every single time it goes on over a coat?
posted by jenfullmoon to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
As a temporary fix, can you do it the other way around at least some of the time so some of the strain is offloaded onto your other hand?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:22 PM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can do what I always did as a smallish kid with a crappy back in middle and high school (I eventually switched to a messenger bag and refused to ever carry textbooks around with me, which made my load lighter).

Anyway, pick up the bag (with both hands, bend at your knees not your back) and place it on something roughly butt height (a desk, a table, a chair, etc). Then back yourself into it, placing both arms through at the same time. Then take off. That way you won't have to struggle to get your arms into the straps at the same time you're lifting the heavy bag. The lifting and arm strapping are two separate events.

You could also try switching it up every once in a while and put the bag on from your left side first.
posted by phunniemee at 2:22 PM on December 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I had major wrist problems, I used to put the backpack on a table and slip my arms into the straps.
posted by chickenmagazine at 2:23 PM on December 9, 2011


As I suspect you have guessed, the real answer is to carry less crap. Light backpacks are easy to put on, because you don't have to balance so much weight and can do it without the contortions.
posted by Forktine at 2:27 PM on December 9, 2011


This is not strictly what you asked, but when I thought I had carpal tunnel (and my GP thought so too), the hand specialist I went to specifically asked me whether I carry a heavy bag on the affected side. Apparently, carrying a really heavy bag on your shoulders can cause nerve impingement in your shoulder and arm that makes your wrist hurt and your hand go numb just like carpal tunnel does. You may want to seek a second opinion from a specialist to find out whether you actually have carpal tunnel. It's possible that carrying the heavy bag is the cause of your symptoms, in which case finding a new way to put it on won't help.
posted by decathecting at 2:27 PM on December 9, 2011


After experimenting, it turns out that what I do is pick the bag up by the right strap in my right hand, swing it back and shoot my left arm through, then put my right arm through the strap. Seems to not result in much strap-twisting at all.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:27 PM on December 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I had to put on 40 lb. backpacks in the Boy Scouts, I would sometimes put the pack in front of me, with the back part facing me and the straps pointing ahead (i.e., just as if it was on my back, except that I was behind it, not in front of it). I would then put both arms through the straps and flip the pack up and over my head until it came down on my shoulders behind me. There's a moment when you have a lot of weight on your shoulders, but it passes quickly, and it puts no strain at all on your forearms or your wrists.

And if your pack is heavy and it doesn't have a waist strap, get one that does (I like the Tom Bihn Brain Bag). It's much easier to carry weight on your hips than on your shoulders.
posted by brianogilvie at 2:34 PM on December 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


As I suspect you have guessed, the real answer is to carry less crap. Light backpacks are easy to put on

This doesn't actually help, in my experience. If my backpacks fit me correctly when it's on, it's very awkward to put on even when empty. It helps me to lengthen the straps all the way (I'm also a petite girl) when I put it on and then tighten it to actually be on correctly after it's on my shoulders, but I like the put-it-on-a-table trick best.
posted by brainmouse at 2:42 PM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


A lot of scuba divers put their BC and tanks on the way brianogilvie described; I tried to find a video of it but had no luck. It really is a good way to put a heavy load on your back, if you can't make it lighter.
posted by TedW at 2:44 PM on December 9, 2011


Apparently, carrying a really heavy bag on your shoulders can cause nerve impingement in your shoulder and arm that makes your wrist hurt and your hand go numb just like carpal tunnel does

That is a good point; a quick but thorough exam can differentiate between carpal tunnel syndrome and brachial plexus problems, which can make a differenc in how best to treat it.
posted by TedW at 2:48 PM on December 9, 2011


Seconding the suggestion to lengthen the shoulder straps when you're putting it on and/or removing it, then cinch them tight once the bag is up on your shoulders. The cinching can be tough if you're yanking against the full weight of the bag, so what I ususally do is bump it up with my butt and while the bag is 'floating' off my shoulders yank the straps tight then.
posted by carsonb at 4:09 PM on December 9, 2011


I also get terminally tangled in my backpack straps. Recently, I started loosing off the straps as far as they will go, putting on the backpack, then tightening the straps again. Helps a lot!
posted by Susurration at 4:09 PM on December 9, 2011


What brianogilvie and TedW describe is at about 0:09 in this video. Basically, put the bottom away from you on a flat surface, with the strap side up, then grab the sides of the bag through the strap-holes and flip it over your head.

It only works if you have nothing in your bag that minds being turned upside down, like an unsecured lunch.

If you do have something in your bag that will spill or break, then try the other method firefighters use for putting on their breathing apparatus: put it on the normal way, but leave your left strap all the way loosened, then tighten it down with your good hand. Reverse to remove it.
posted by skyl1n3 at 5:25 PM on December 9, 2011


The 'pack in front and then flip it over your head' method is what I use when diving, for BC/tanks.

The 'loose straps then cinch that sucker up' method is what I use for ruck marches.

You want the pack to sit fully, tightly, against your back - when its finally on. Also, placing the pack on a surface closer to its final height will help.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:58 PM on December 9, 2011


Another [Boy Scout-learned] alternative is to sort of scrunch up one leg so your thigh is nearly horizontal, and rest the pack there while you slip one arm in up to the shoulder -- then swing the pack around toward your back and at the same time shoot your second arm into its strap. (God help you if you miss, though.)
posted by wenestvedt at 5:40 AM on December 12, 2011


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