Those of you who travel for a living know what a pain it can be
to handle luggage. Not only do you have to deal with the aggravation of
getting your baggage checked, but you’ll also have to decide what to bring
in your carry on. Decisions, decisions!
After prioritizing your “vital supplies”, you may find that you
still need a fork truck to haul your two “small carry-on” items onto the plane.
The problem is: Once you’re inside, you’re going to have to carry your “stuff” down a narrow aisle, and hoist it over your head into a cramped overhead bin.
And yes, you must execute this maneuver while 5 other passengers in your area are each jockeying to perform the same task...you are at risk for an injury!
The larger and heavier your luggage, the more susceptible you are to neck, back, and shoulder injuries.
Lifting and carrying bulky luggage can result in ligament, tendon, muscle or joint injuries.
According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission
, more than 50,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors'
offices, clinics and other medical settings for injuries related to luggage in 2007. Injuries to the back, neck, and shoulder may be attributed to the mismanagement of heavy, over-packed luggage.
Lifting and carrying heavy luggage places stress on the low back, neck and shoulders because the weight is often being lifted at a distance from the center of gravity of your body. The “moment arm” (lever system) created by this type of lifting can create massive compressive forces, which could result in damage to the intervertebral discs, spinal joints and ligaments in your low back.
A 50 lb. load lifted at 24” from your body could create a force the magnitude of which would be sufficient to cause a disk herniation. Loads in excess of 1600 lbs. have been measured from this type of lift. Therefore it’s essential to follow the guidelines for safe lifting to avoid
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
recommends the following:
Look for sturdy, light, high-quality, and transportable pieces when shopping for luggage. Choose luggage with wheels and a handle.
Avoid purchasing luggage that is too heavy or bulky when empty.
Use smart packing techniques and pack lightly. When possible, place items in a few smaller bags instead of one large luggage piece.
To lift luggage, stand alongside of it and bend at the knees. Do not bend at the waist. Lift the luggage with your leg muscles. Grasp the handle and straighten up, remember to Exhale (BREATH OUT) as you lift. Once you lift the luggage, hold it close to your body.
Do not twist when lifting and carrying luggage. Point your toes in the direction you are headed and turn your entire body in that direction.
Do not rush when lifting or carrying a suitcase. If it is too cumbersome, get help.
Do not carry bulky luggage for long periods of time. Make sure to check heavier items when traveling.
Carry pieces in both of your hands rather than one hand off to the side. This can decrease stress to the spine. Less weight on any one arm can also reduce the risk of developing "suitcase elbow," a chronic condition similar to "tennis elbow." When placing luggage in an overhead compartment, first lift it onto the top of the seat. Place your hands on the left and right sides of the suitcase and lift it up. If your luggage has wheels, make sure the wheel-side is set in the compartment first. Once wheels are inside, put one hand atop the luggage and push it to the back of the compartment. To remove the luggage, reverse this process.
When using a backpack, make sure it has two padded and adjustable shoulder straps to equally balance the weight. Choose a backpack with several compartments to secure various-sized items, packing the heavier things low and towards the center. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder does not allow weight to be distributed evenly. This can cause muscle strain.
When using a duffel or shoulder bag, do not carry it on one shoulder for any length of time. Be sure to switch sides often.
Carry all rolling luggage when climbing stairs.
Shoulder Joint Considerations: Keep in mind that any lift away from the body or overhead causes increased stress at the shoulder.
The tissues most susceptible are the 4 rotator cuff tendons, the biceps tendon, the Glenohumeral joint (Ball and socket joint), the labrum, and the shoulder joint capsule and stabilizing ligaments. These structures are especially susceptible to sudden jerking movements e.g. pulling your luggage, sudden deceleration if your luggage drops down from a bin, forceful pushing to “cram” the carry-on into a tight bin.
Generally speaking, the most important rule for safe lifting is to keep
the object close to the body. The National Institute Of Occupational Safety and Health
(NIOSH) publishes a calculation to determine safe lifting capacity for Men and Women.
Different values are necessary since strength has been scientifically demonstrated to
vary between genders, especially in the upper extremities.
In order maximize safety for the largest percentage of the population the safe
lifting from the equation is quoted at the 90th percentile.
For overhead lifting the recommended safe values are for Men = 25 lbs., for Women = 12 lbs.
You should follow the recommendations below for lifting bags into an overhead bin:
Use both hands when loading baggage into and out of overhead bins.
Position yourself FACING the BIN, and maintain proper neck posture
Always move in as close to the bin so that you keep the load (carry- on bag) as close to your body as possible.
Never lean over other objects when loading a bag.
Never pull or jerk the bag since this stresses the shoulder rotator cuff tendons.
Always keep your elbows in and your shoulder blades down (depressed) as much as possible during the lift.