For the past three years, I've been wrestling with a back injury. I've seen three different physical therapists, read entire books on back health and back pain, and tried dozens of different modalities, movements, and exercises. Some helped, some didn't, and bit by bit, I got slightly better, though not wholly better.
Then I discovered the teachings of Dr. Stuart McGill, Chief Scientific Officer at Backfitpro Inc. and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at University of Waterloo, who has investigated issues relating to the mechanics and the causes of back pain for decades. Through epidemiological studies and clinical trials, he came to a significant finding. “Walking was actually an activity that we investigated from several perspectives, and we were able to prove that walking is almost non-negotiable for a healthy spine,” said Dr. McGill.
So I began walking when my back flared up and quickly discovered that walking helps. A lot. I dug deeper and discovered additional research that walking with a weighted backpack can help even more for many, many people. “Interestingly enough, wearing a backpack unloads the spine. Now, this might seem paradoxical,” Dr. McGill acknowledges before explaining the body mechanics involved.
“When you're standing upright . . . your back muscles, which work behind the spine, are acting like cranes, and cables to pull the spine up,” he says. “They're very close to the spine, so they have a very small mechanical advantage. They're like a wrench with a very short handle. So those muscles themselves are imposing a compressive load down the spine.”
“Now, let's put on a backpack with, let's say, 10 or 15 pounds in the pack, with the weight [low] behind the muscles. [The weight] acts like muscles to pull the spine up with a much longer wrench handle. And when you do the engineering calculations, it unloads the spine,” says Dr. McGill.
“In other words,” he says, “the back muscles don't need to contract as much. Their compressive load down the spine is now less, so while you add a tiny bit of compressive load with the weight in the pack, it has a much greater mechanical advantage.”
Dr. McGill tested this theory with people who suffered from disc bulges, sending them out to walk on undulating ground—like the gradual hills of a golf course—with a weighted backpack. The result? Noticeably smaller bulges and reduced pain.
As I continued my quest to relieve my own back misery, I began walking with the only weighted pack I could find. While the first two or three walks were challenging, I quickly acclimated to the weight and within two weeks, my back felt better than it had in three years. The one problem? The only pack I was able to find was incredibly uncomfortable. The straps didn't fit my figure and crossed right across my breasts, there was no padding so the weight felt hard against my back, and it was just a little too heavy at the start.
I knew there had to be a better solution, so Eric got to work and designed one for me. It was then that the Jetti Pack was born. This Pack, designed especially to accommodate a woman’s figure, delivers a comfortable fit, has a well-padded back and starts at a thoughtful seven pounds with the option to slowly build up as you get stronger.
The benefits of walking with a Jetti Pack go far beyond the benefits I have experienced for my back health. My legs are getting stronger and so is my core. My posture is better. I love feeling my glutes and hamstrings working harder, especially on the small hills of my neighborhood. I know I am breathing harder and working my cardiovascular system. I love that I can walk with my Jetti Pack and my dog.
Walking with a Jetti Pack was the single best thing I have found to help my back. Of course, everyone is different, and if you have any kind of injury, you should consult with a doctor before trying anything new. But, for me, my Jetti Pack has been a game changer.