Backpacks and Back Pain

Follow these guidelines when choosing a backpack:


  • Choose a backpack that is the appropriate size. The bottom of the pack should rest in the small of the back.

  • Padding on the back of the pack will reduce pressure and prevent the bag’s contents from digging into the back.

  • Good shoulder straps are wide and padded. When properly adjusted, the pack should fit snugly to the wearer’s back, but will allow free movement of the arms. The backpack should also be two straps, not just one.





When wearing a backpack:


  • The total weight of a backpack and its contents should be no more that 15% of the wearer’s body weight. Hunched, slumped shoulders are a sure sign of an overweight backpack.

  • Both shoulder straps should be worn, not just one. Two straps ensure that weight is distributed evenly and prevents poor posture. If the pack has a waist belt, it should be buckled to distribute some of the load to the pelvis.

  • Heavier items should be placed closest to the back and at the bottom of the pack. If the bag as any compression straps, they should be tightened to minimize shifting of the contents.


A physical therapist can help improve posture problems, correct muscle imbalances, and treat pain that can result from improper backpack use, as well as recommend a backpack that will prevent these problems from occurring again. For more information, check out this article on backpacks on  


Low back pain is not only a problem for adults - children are often affected by the backpacks they carry to and from school. Heavy backpacks combined with poor posture and fitting can cause stress to the spine and muscles in the back, which significantly increases the risk of back pain and long-term damage.