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Beware of the Backpack

back pain from backpacks

With summer break coming to an end, backpacks may soon be a regular fixture in your or your kids’ day. Backpacks are a popular choice for not only schoolbooks, but laptops, lunches, gym gear, and travel. Despite the variety of uses, the handy backpack can be a culprit for neck, shoulder, and back pain. To prevent discomfort without ditching your pack, it’s key to know who may be a risk and what of pain you may experience so you can keep on carrying conveniently.

Who is at Risk

While students are obvious candidates for backpack-related pain, many adults are at risk as well. Although not necessarily used on a daily basis like students, there are many backpack-using categories adults fall into that can put them at risk for neck, shoulder, or back pain:

  • Hikers who use backpacks to carry gear and supplies for explorations in the wild.
  • Travelers that use backpacks as a substitute for more traditional suitcase or luggage to bring clothes and necessities when traveling.
  • Commuters who use backpacks to bring items like lunch, laptops and work supplies to and fro daily; often a substitute for a briefcase.
  • Freelancers that use backpacks to transport laptops and work supplies to different worksite locations; often a substitute for a briefcase or messenger bag.
  • Athletes and exercise enthusiasts who use backpacks to carry gym clothes and athletic gear to and from exercise or sports facilities.

Bottom line: backpacks are convenient for a wide range of people. But for all its convenience, we have the tendency to overstuff, improperly wear, or use the wrong type of backpack for our needs. Because of all of the different uses, backpacks have the potential to cause all different kinds of pain.

What Kinds of Pain

It makes sense that a backpack can cause back pain, but there are other areas and more specific types of pain that can be linked to the popular pack.

  1. Neck pain pain can come from the strain of weight and even from the backpack being worn to low on the back causing further strain.
  2. Shoulder pain can be another side effect of the hefty weight, but there is risk-potential especially when the backpack is worn over only one shoulder throwing all equilibrium off balance.
  3. Lower back pain comes again from the weight of the bag. Over time this can contribute to spinal disc compression and even pinched nerves.
  4. Along with creating new pain and discomfort, heavy and improperly worn backpacks can also irritate pre-existing neck and back conditions.


How to Prevent Pain

Avoiding pain from backpacks doesn’t mean avoiding the use of backpacks or even require replacing the current pack. There are simple guidelines to follow that will help minimize discomfort and allow you to carry on with your backpack:

  • Lighten the load by carrying only what you need. Especially for students with textbooks, it is recommended a child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10% of his or her body weight.
  • Backpacks should be worn as directed and intended – higher on the back by tightening straps and avoiding hanging by one shoulder.
  • When shopping for a new backpack, examine at the mechanics of it’s design and look for thicker cushioned straps, assess the overall size based on your needs, and opt for more compartments to keep the weight of contents better distributed.
  • Already feeling neck, shoulder, or back pain? Talk to your doctor and seek treatment before minor discomfort turns into serious pain.



At Q Spine Institute, we understand your lifestyle and make it our top priority to give our patients the best care possible and return their quality of life to them. If you or a loved one are experiencing neck, shoulder, or back pain, please contact the Q Spine team at (732) 660-8942 or request a free phone consultation today.


Topics: Back Pain Lower Back Pain Neck Pain Spine Condition