Shifting the load: Study shows Salem inventor's backpack reduces strain, improves posture

During a trip to Nepal in the early 1980s, Marilyn von Foerster struggled under the weight of her traditional backpack. Her knees ached. Her back ached.

So she switched to one of two carrying systems the locals used - a traditional tumpline that transfers the weight to a strap across the forehead.

"I switched from my backpack to this carrying system and was just amazed how my body responded," the Salem inventor and physical therapist said. "All the little knee pains I was having went away."

Fast forward about 25 years. During her work as a physical therapist she saw many patients with back pain, including children whose posture and gait were distorted under the weight of backpacks stuffed with textbooks.

There had to be a better and healthier way. So she designed the "BackTpack," a saddlebag backpack with two bags that hang from the shoulder putting the force of the load on the spinal axis, and eliminating the posture distortion caused by a traditional backpack.

KATU first highlighted the BackTpack back in 2009.

The pack went through numerous designs, with the latest being the BackTPack 4. The company is a family affair, with design, testing, shipping and marketing handled by Marilyn, her husband Andreas, and son Nicholas, now a medical student at Oregon Health Sciences University.

A recent study confirmed the science behind the design was solid.

Researchers at Ball State University conducted a study on von Foerster's invention last summer, and this spring released their findings in a study published in Gait and Posture magazine. They found that the BackTPack "allowed the wearer to maintain a more upright posture than a backpack(and) may reduced the potentially negative effects of poor posture."

Sales have taken off, Marilyn von Foerster said, doubling this spring over last year at the same time.

"Childhood is the crucial time to train good posture and habits of healthy movement,'' von Foerster said. "It's important to load the bones during the growing years to build strong bones for a lifetime"

The BackTPack can be purchased online (models range from $50 to $120 depending on size) and at numerous retailers in the US and abroad.

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