Carrying a backpack that is too heavy, the wrong size, or carrying it over one shoulder, can lead to low back pain, muscle spasms, neck pain and shoulder pain.  

Your backpack is a problem if:

  • You have to struggle to get it on or off
  • You have to lean forward to carry it
  • You have back, neck, or shoulder pain

It is recommended that your backpack weigh no more than ten to fifteen percent of your body weight, and for large or overweight children, that number should be reduced by one third.

When choosing to purchase a new backpack, or to wear the one you already have, use the following guidelines to keep your body in its correct posture and avoid problems:

  • Look for a backpack with two padded shoulder straps.  The padded shoulder straps may help even out the weight distribution.
  • Adjust the Straps so your backpack sits close to your back. If the backpack bumps against your low back or butt, the straps are too long.  Carrying items away from your body takes more effort and places added stress on your muscles and joints. Cinch the straps to fit your frame.
  • Always wear both straps of the backpack; never carry your backpack over one shoulder. When carrying a backpack over one shoulder, your muscles strain to compensate for the uneven weight.  
  • Use the waist belt.  Some backpacks come with a waist belt, use it!  This will take a portion of the load off the shoulders and will support some of the weight of the backpack.
  • Carry some items in your hands.  If your backpack is really heavy and there is no way to leave some of the heavy books or items at home, consider carrying a few of them in your hands.
  • Distribute the weight properly. When loading your backpack, keep the heavier items closest to your body and use the side pockets to help distribute some of the weight. 
  • Use the bathroom scale to weigh your backpack. Remember that your backpack should weigh no more than 10-15 percent of your total body weight.  Pack your backpack then check the weight on your bathroom scale.
  • Consider a wheeling backpack.  When all else fails and you really can’t lighten the load, perhaps a backpack on wheels would be a good option.