Back Pain From Backpack: Causes And Prevention

Backpack syndrome is the medical term for back pain caused by a backpack. It is a common problem among people who frequently wear backpacks with heavy loads for a long period of time, such as students, hikers, and travellers. Back pain symptoms from backpacks include lower back pain, strained neck muscles, abnormal posture, and more.

Backpacks are popular items for appealing reasons, and they come in all shapes and sizes. For example, backpacks help travellers stay organised with convenient compartments, ensure a hands-free commuting experience, and provide comfort with padded shoulders. However, overly heavy backpacks and incorrect posture can cause discomfort and pain.

The reasons behind back problems that are caused by backpack are plain and direct. Here are the common underlying causes for back pain from wearing backpacks and how you can proactively prevent them.

4 Reasons For Having Back Pain From Backpack

Back Pain From Backpack: Causes and Prevention - CabinZero

Overly packed backpacks can cause back pain. Photo by ViDi Studio on

When your body is forced into an unnatural posture, such as when wearing a heavy backpack with unevenly distributed weight on one shoulder, it can cause pain and discomfort.

If you experience prolonged pain, you must identify the underlying causes, change your current way of wearing a backpack, and consider booking an appointment with a professional for medical diagnosis. Here are common reasons associated with back pain.

1. Wearing Backpack Improperly

Carrying a backpack on one shoulder is one of the most common mistakes in backpack wearing. There are some types of shoulder bags that can be worn on one shoulder, including crossbody bags, messenger bags, and tote bags.

However, the capacity of these bags generally does not exceed the average backpack size. As there is a significant asymmetry in weight on one shoulder, wearing a backpack on one side can put a strain on your shoulder and neck.

Selecting a wrong-sized backpack is another reason for improper backpack wearing, thus causing continuous discomfort while wearing. If your backpack is too big, it can throw you off balance on the go and put a strain on your muscles. If your backpack is too small and worn too tight, it can obstruct the blood flow to your arms, leaving redness on your shoulders.

2. Wearing Heavy Backpack

Heavy backpacks are known to cause excessive stress on people's muscles and joints, especially in the back area. If your body works hard to compensate for the heavy weight from your backpack for an extended period of time, muscle stiffness and pain are prone to happen. So, how does an overly heavy backpack cause back pain?

When you are wearing a heavy backpack, it is a natural response for your body to lean forward in an attempt to balance the centre of your gravity. This unnatural posture can become a habit if wearing a heavy backpack is a part of your everyday activity, which reduces the curve of your lower back while increasing the curve of your upper back.

3. Wearing Backpack Prolongedly

Back Pain From Backpack: Causes and Prevention - CabinZero

Unevenly distributed weight can make it difficult to find balance when wearing a backpack. Photo by Buyanskyy Production -

In some cases, wearing backpacking without a break can cause numbness and tingling feeling in a person's arms. Having a headache is another symptom. A backpacking trip can last from days to weeks and even months.

Backpackers and hikers are known to carry heavy-loaded backpacks for an extensive period of time. This habit of frequently carrying heavy backpacks without proper posture and adequate breaks can easily lead to complicated health problems such as back pain and musculoskeletal conditions.

According to the World Health Organization, common musculoskeletal conditions (also known as repetitive motion injury) are associated with joint pain, bone fractures, and regional pain problems like back and neck pain.

  • CabinZero's Tips: If you need to carry a bulky backpack, it is best that you take a break frequently whenever you can. For example, if you are travelling with your big-sized backpacking backpack, you can try taking it off when you are in transit.

4. Picking Up Heavy Backpack Incorrectly

Incorrect posture is recognised as one of the most repeated causes of low back pain, especially when lifting a heavy object. If you wrongfully pick up your heavy-weight backpack, you risk putting stress on your back muscles, spinal discs and multiple joints.

5 Tips To Prevent Back Pain From Backpack

Back Pain From Backpack: Causes and Prevention - CabinZero

Wearing a backpack in the correct way can help prevent back pain.

Back pain is becoming a common health problem for both travellers and students. If you find difficulties putting your backpack on and off, experience consistent back pain for a prolonged period, and tend to lean forward while carrying your backpack, try applying these tips.

1. Find A Correctly Fit Backpack

Measuring your torso length accurately is the first step to selecting a backpack of the right size. You can choose an appropriate backpack size based on torso length and your personal needs.

Are you looking for a backpack for daily use, for school, for air travel or for hiking? Regardless of your chosen size, it is important to make sure that your shoulder straps are comfortably fit. Finger tight is a useful way to measure how tight your straps should be.

2. Wearing and Lifting Your Backpack Correctly

Backpacks are useful for carrying things, especially when travelling for a long period of time or for daily use. It is important to distribute weight evenly across your back and between your shoulders.

Remember that you should wear your backpack using both straps. Your shoulder straps should be tightened enough to sit comfortably high on your back without snugging. Good posture is also crucial. Stand tall with your shoulders back and down. Avoid slouching or hunching forward, which can strain your back muscles.

Next time you plan to pick up a heavy object or a fully loaded backpack, avoid bending forward to pick the item up. Keep your back straight to maintain its natural forward-curved position, and hold your backpack close to your body. Holding heavy items close to you within your shoulders and waist area is better for your balance.

3. Avoid Wearing Overloaded Backpack

According to Mayo Clinic Health System, wearing a backpack that weighs more than 15% of an adult's body weight can cause lower back pain. The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) recommends backpacks weigh no more than 10% of children's weight.

Back Pain From Backpack: Causes and Prevention - CabinZero

Remember to take a break often.

If you are in doubt, using a bathroom scale is a simple way to check the ratio between the weight of your backpack and your body weight. Limiting your backpack weight and not being tempted to overpack is best. Knowing how to pack your backpack efficiently can save you from an over-packed backpack and back pain on your dream holiday.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is pack light, a smart approach to travel. A light load significantly reduce the likelihood of long-term health issues such as herniated discs, scoliosis, and other spine-related conditions. Limiting the weight of your backpack encourages you to think carefully about what you really need to take.

  • CabinZero's Tips: Packing heavy items as close as possible to your body is a good packing tip. If you are carrying a water bottle on one side, you should try to balance the weight out with something else on the other side.

4. Check For Ergonomic Features

Your backpack should work for you, not against you. By checking for ergonomic features, you can say goodbye to backpack pain and hello to comfortable, pain-free adventures. Key features that can significantly affect how you feel when wearing a backpack include:

  • Wide straps with comfortable padding are comfortable to wear for a long period of time as they do not hinder blood circulation.
  • A waist belt and a chest belt can help distribute your backpack weight more evenly and provide better support to your abdominal muscles.
  • Load lifter straps can be tightened to pull the weight of the backpack closer to the body and improve body balance.
  • Compression straps can cinch down the load, keeping the contents from shifting and creating an unbalanced feel.
  • Lightweight materials and backpack frames can reduce the overall weight that you have to carry.

5. Choose High-Quality Backpacks

Choose High-Quality Backpacks

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Choose a quality backpack with a 25-year warranty and ultra-lightweight materials from CabinZero's zero-hassle design backpacks. Our travel-inspired backpacks are made for travel, versatility and comfort. Not sure which type of backpack fits you and your needs best? Do not hesitate to reach out to us.

The CabinZero Classic lineup is your best friend for light travel. They are chic, weigh less than a pound, and include padded shoulder straps. When you want a backpack for 20 minutes of light walking, this is it.

The Military Classic features heavy-duty nylon that can take a beating. There’s also the padded back panel, chest belt, and waist belt (not on Military 28L). Most suitable for everything: from commuting, a day in the office, to hitting the gym afterwards.

The ADV and ADV Pro pack everything you need for a full day out, all the while being slim enough for easy manoeuvre. They are our most features-packed product yet, with all the bills and whistles you need for exploring the trails or biking.

Planning for an excursion to the beach in style? Our ADV Dry Beach Bags can accompany you. No worries about splash and sudden downpours with a high-rate water-resistant fabric. It’s also sizeable enough to toss all the beach essentials and keep them protected and dry.


1. What Is Backpack Syndrome?

Backpack syndrome is pain and physical conditions that arise from carrying a backpack on a frequent basis. This syndrome usually involves abnormal body posture that results in pain and fatigue, primarily in the back, neck and shoulders. Common causes include incorrect form when wearing a backpack and carrying an overly heavy backpack as compared to a person’s body weight. 

2. How Do You Fix A Heavy Bag Back Pain?

Packing light and prioritising necessary items are your best strategies to overcome heavy backpacks. If you use your backpack on a frequent basis, it is helpful to take time and go through your backpack to remove unnecessary items. If you are packing for a trip, creating a detailed packing list can save you from the mistake of overpacking. Packing list apps are useful tools to stay organised and keep your backpack light.  

3. Do Heavy Backpacks Ruin Posture?

Carrying heavy backpacks is known to put stress on your muscles and joints. When carrying heavy items, your body tends to compensate for the extra weight by leaning forward to keep the overall balance. Once this becomes a habit, your body is changed due to the incorrect posture, which can ruin your natural posture.

Is Your Backpack Giving You Back Pain? We Can Help!

Displaying symptoms of back pain from backpacks are varied, from back pain in the lower and upper area to strained shoulders and neck. Carrying an overly heavy backpack with improper form can result in other health problems such as circulation problems, disc compression and the risk of injuries by falling.

By understanding the common underlying reasons behind backpack syndrome, you can wear your favourite backpack with confidence and avoid preventable health issues. 

Backpacks are popular and useful items for all ages and travel needs. Know someone who uses backpacks frequently? Share this article with your loved ones to make sure they are aware of all the common mistakes when wearing a backpack to avoid back pain. 

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