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Backpack & Handbag Tips: How to Carry the Weight

By Kathy Shillue, physical therapist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Backpacks

  • Wear the backpack with both arms through the shoulder straps so the weight is evenly distributed on your back. Don't let it hang off one shoulder.
  • Adjust the straps so the main load of the backpack sits centrally on the middle and lower back, not too low at the hips.
  • Wider, padded shoulder straps are more comfortable and help distribute the weight over a larger area.
  • A pack with chest, waist or hip belt will help to keep pack secure and help evenly distribute the weight.
  • A pack with multiple pockets or compartments will keep the contents from shifting around too much as you move.
  • If you walk or stand for long periods with a backpack, consider a model with wheels and a handle so you can pull it along for some of the time.
  • Even with these considerations, overloading the backpack can cause problems.

For children, keep the weight of the backpack to less than 10 to 15 percent of body weight. Higher weights have been shown to cause children to adopt awkward postures that can overload the back and neck muscles.

For adults, if you have to bend forward or hike your shoulders up in order to carry the load, it's probably too heavy.

Tips for handbags and shoulder bags

  • Alternate the shoulder or arm you use to carry the shoulder bag.
  • Carry the bag with the shoulder strap diagonally across your body.
  • Lighten the load: Go through your bag on a regular basis and take out items you don't use every day. Keep duplicates of some items at home and at work so you don't have to carry them back and forth (cosmetics, shoes, umbrella, clothing).

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Contact Information

Spine Center
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Shapiro Clinical Center, Second Floor
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617-754-9000
spinecenter@bidmc.harvard.edu

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