Choosing the Best Bag for Back Health

March 28, 2019

Young woman wearing a backpack and dragging a rolling suitcase
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN

Backpacks, messenger bags, purses and gym bags; you've probably carried a bag through each phase of your life as your needs (and tastes) have changed. But even though your bag is a convenient way to carry your items, it might not provide the best back health support possible.

Is it even possible to find back-friendly bags, and, if so, how do you know which one is the most beneficial? Fortunately, you can choose a better bag that provides superior spine support while still being stylish and functional.

How Your Bag Impacts Your Spine

Several factors play into the impact your bag has on your spinal health. First, how much you carry inside your bag plays a significant role in how healthy you keep your spine. Excess weight inside your bag — from items like water bottles, books and computers — makes it difficult to keep your spine in proper alignment. This is especially true if you're carrying your bag on only one side of your body.

Weighing your one-shoulder bag down with extra items can cause your spine to curve unnaturally over long periods of time. This, in turn, causes back pain, which can interfere with your ability to enjoy your daily life. Additionally, the extra weight you carry in your bag can strain your muscles and lead to more pain.

Tips for Picking Back-Friendly Bags

It's possible to combat back pain while still keeping all your items together by using bags that promote back health support. In general, following these tips can help you lower your pain and keep your spine healthy:

  • Stay Small: Always use the smallest bag you can while out and about. Small bags prevent you from carrying excess weight, which reduces the strain on your muscles and spine.
  • Choose Sides: The asymmetry of carrying a heavy load on only one side of your body is a major causative factor for back pain. If you use a one-strap bag, help take the strain off by occasionally switching which side of your body you carry the bag on. Also, a longer strap that you can use diagonally across your body helps cut down on pain.
  • Wear Dual Straps: Backpacks are an increasingly popular choice for people of all ages who need to carry items but want to stay healthy. The dual straps on a backpack help distribute your load's weight more evenly, preventing spine and muscle strain. Wearing a backpack appropriately also cuts down on slouching and slumping, which adds strain to your back. It's important to wear your backpack as high on your back as you can, avoiding placement below the curve of your back. Also, keep the straps as tight as possible — this can help make your load feel lighter.
  • Use a Rolling Bag: For especially large or heavy loads, try switching to a bag on wheels instead of one that you carry. Rolling bags significantly reduce your likelihood of experiencing back pain since the weight of the load is completely off your back.

Some bags may be more fashionable than others, but that doesn't mean they're good for back health support. Choosing back-friendly bags — and wearing them correctly — can prevent pain and help you recover if you have back issues. Making small changes and being more aware of how you carry items is the best way to help keep your back healthy.

Sign Up to Receive Our Newsletter & Get the Best Ergonomic Tips