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Ergonomics. 2006 Feb 10;49(2):127-38.

Trunk muscle activity in different modes of carrying schoolbags.

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  • 1Product Ergonomics Research Centre, Katholieke Hogeschool Limburg, Belgium.


The daily load of carrying schoolbags is influenced by the mode of carriage. Electromyographic (EMG) activity from rectus abdominis and erector spinae was recorded bilaterally in five static conditions: no bag; shoulder bag; backpack; front pack; double pack. Nineteen students carried a load of 15% of their body weight. A double pack, with the load equally distributed in a front and a backpack, showed no significant differences in EMG activity compared with unloaded standing. The activity levels of erector spinae significantly decreased while carrying a backpack and increased with a shoulder bag and a front pack. Rectus abdominis revealed significantly higher EMG levels in the backpack trial. Asymmetrical activity between the right and the left part of the back muscles was clearly observed while carrying a shoulder bag with the weight at the right side of the body. The abdominal muscles revealed a slightly significant asymmetry for the shoulder bag and, surprisingly, also for the backpack. These findings suggest that the physical stresses associated with carrying book bags can be minimized by the design of a double pack. Asymmetry in muscle activity may indicate a failure of trunk stabilization and contribute to the development back pain.

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