Published on 12/01/2015
Your backpack may be to blame for your back or neck aches, even if you’re only carrying your pack to class and back. Choosing the right bag for the right occasion is only half the battle when you’re looking for the perfect carryall; you also must understand how to properly load and carry that bag to prevent long-term, irreversible damage to your spine, neck and even your legs.
Learn how to carry a backpack the right way with these simple tips.
If a knapsack is frequently strapped to your back and you experience uncomfortable sensations while toting your pack or shortly thereafter, there’s a good chance you’re not doing your body good. Signs and symptoms of backpack-related injury or muscle strain can include:
Numbness or tingling in the arms and shoulders
Red marks or bruises on the shoulders or back
Lower or upper back pain
Pain that radiates down the back of either leg
The need to lean forward to carry your pack comfortably
Carry no more than 10-15 percent of your body weight
As technology has advanced, our tools and toys that power our days now weigh less than ever. Despite these improvements, we often still lug around more weight than is safe or necessary. You should never carry more than 15 percent of your body weight in your knapsack. Children, ideally, should carry only 10 percent on their backs. Living by this golden rule of backpacking will eliminate fatigue and muscle strain, and prevent injury.
Long distance hikers have perfected this technique, and that’s what keeps their body healthy enough to hike 15-20 miles a day with a huge pack strapped on their shoulders. You should do the same. The heaviest items in your knapsack--things like books and boots--should be loaded into your pack first and sit at the bottom of your bag. And be sure to even out the weight so that the left and right sides of your pack carry the same amount of poundage.
Whenever possible, and especially when you’re carrying a heavy load, use both shoulder straps on your backpack. Doing so will keep your spine in alignment and prevent your muscles from being overworked. If you can’t double strap, be sure to move the backpack from one shoulder to the other shoulder often.
Your new backpack will arrive with the shoulder straps secured to the bag, but not necessarily adjusted to your body type. It’s up to you to slide the straps into proper position by adjusting them. When done correctly, your backpack will rest on your middle back and fit close to your body.
Lastly, secure items in your pack as best you can. Things should not slide around as you’re walking. If your pack has pockets, use them to store keys, wallets, tablets and other items that would otherwise tumble around your bag needlessly.
There, doesn’t that feel better?