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Can a hydration backpack lead to back problems?

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 11:14 am GMT +0000    Post subject: Can a hydration backpack lead to back problems? Reply with quote

Hi Doc,

After preriding on Saturday at Huntsville, I started having bad lower back pain. I was wearing a full camelbak. The pain was worse on race day...I managed to race and finish...but was not at all competative.

I do have a history of lower back trouble...but it's not been much of an issue cycling until recently when I started wearing hydration packs. I did take a bad spill last week...but the pain at that time was more hip and knee.

I also ride a hardtail.

So, I guess the basic question is...Can wearing a hydration pack lead to back problems, and if so, is it common?

Thanks Doc,

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The Bike Doc

Joined: 08 May 2003
Posts: 1371
Location: Corpus Christi and Warda, Texas

PostPosted: Tue Oct 05, 2004 10:39 am GMT +0000    Post subject: Reply with quote


Backpacks can be contributors to low back pain as well as upper back pain. There are no specific studies published on hydration backpacks per say but there are a few studies published on back packs in general. Below is the summary from one article on adolescents with back pain and backpack usage.

Spine. 2003 May 1;28(9):922-30.

The association of backpack use and back pain in adolescents.

Sheir-Neiss GI, Kruse RW, Rahman T, Jacobson LP, Pelli JA.

Department of Research, Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington,
Delaware 19899, USA.

STUDY DESIGN: A cross-sectional study comprising the first phase of an ongoing,
longitudinal prospective study was conducted. OBJECTIVE: To investigate the
relation between backpack use and back pain in adolescents. SUMMARY OF
BACKGROUND DATA: The prevalence of nonspecific back pain increases dramatically
during adolescence from less than 10% in the pre-teen-age years up to 50% in 15-
to 16-year-olds. There is widespread concern that heavy backpacks carried by
adolescents contribute to the development of back pain. METHODS: A total of 1126
children, ages 12 to 18 years, participated by completing a questionnaire about
their health, activities, and backpack use. Each child's body weight, height,
and backpack weight were measured. A child was classified as having back pain if
one or more of the following were reported during the preceding month: neck or
back pain that had interfered with school or leisure, neck or back pain with a
severity rating of 2 or more on a scale 0 to 10, a visit to a physician or
therapist for neck or back pain, or exemption from physical education or sports
because of neck or back pain. RESULTS: Of 1122 backpack users, 74.4% were
classified as having back pain, validated by significantly poorer general
health, more limited physical functioning, and more bodily pain. As compared
with no or low use of backpacks at school, heavy use (odds ratio, 1.98; P <
0.0001) was independently associated with back pain. Female gender and larger
body mass index also were significantly associated with back pain. As compared
with adolescents who had no back pain, adolescents with back pain carried
significantly heavier backpacks that represented a significantly greater
percentage of their body weights. CONCLUSION: The use of backpacks during the
school day and backpack weights are independently associated with back pain.

PMID: 12942009 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

So if you are finding that wearing the hydration back pack is causing a pain in your back, you may have to switch to either a lighter version (smaller fluid volume) for your hydration back pack, use a hydration back pack that has a hip belt that will allow more weight be shifted to the hips or go back to the water bottles on the bike hydration system.

Paul K. Nolan, MD
AKA: The Bike Doc
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