How to relieve back pain from backpack (August 2023)

To relieve back pain from a backpack, lighten the load by reducing the weight of your backpack and only carrying essential items. Then properly adjust straps to ensure the backpack sits snugly on your back, with both shoulder straps evenly tightened.


Backpacks are incredibly useful for carrying all of our daily necessities and gear, especially for students lugging heavy textbooks around campus. However, backpacks can also lead to back and shoulder pain if used improperly or overloaded. As someone who has dealt with this issue personally throughout my school years, I want to share all my tips and tricks to prevent and treat backpack-related back pain.

Let me start by saying back pain sucks! It makes daily life so difficult and just zaps your energy entirely. I remember times in college when my back hurt so bad from my overloaded backpack that I could barely focus in class or even just walk across campus. All I wanted to do was lie down! So trust me, I sympathize with anyone dealing with a heavy pack causing back and shoulder pain. But you don’t have to just suffer through it! With some adjustments, you can stop the pain and wear your backpack in comfort.

Why Backpacks Cause Back Pain

First, let’s quickly discuss why backpacks cause pain in the first place. When worn incorrectly or overloaded, all the weight in a backpack shifts to your shoulders and back. The muscles then have to work extra hard to support that heavy weight, leading to muscle tightness and spasms. It also throws off your posture, curving the spine unnaturally. These factors combined lead to aches, soreness, stiffness, and even pinched nerves. Just thinking about it makes my own back twinge!

The specific areas most prone to backpack-related pain are:

  • Neck and upper back
  • Shoulders and shoulder blades
  • Middle to lower back
  • Sides of the ribcage

So in essence, shifting the weight off your back and distributing it more evenly is key to preventing and stopping pain. Time to learn how!

Tips to Prevent Backpack Pain

The best way to deal with backpack pain is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are my top tips to stop pain before it starts:

1. Choose a backpack with proper structure.

The backpack itself plays a big role. Choose a backpack with:

  • Wide, padded shoulder straps – distribute weight across shoulders
  • Chest and waist straps – transfer weight to torso
  • Padded back panel – prevents poking and digging
  • Lightweight yet durable fabric – cuts excess weight

2. Always use both shoulder straps.

Wearing a backpack on just one shoulder looks cool but amplifies pain! Using both straps balances the load.

3. Pack the weight close to your body.

Pack heavy items close to your back and centered. Don’t overload front pockets.

4. Lighten the load when possible.

Carry only the essentials and avoid extras that add weight. Lighten up!

5. Adjust the straps to lift the pack up higher.

The pack should sit just below the neck, not sag down the back.

Backpack Fit Tips
Pack rests above waist
Shoulder straps fit just below neck
Load centered and close to body
Hip belt tightened to anchor pack

6. Stay physically active.

Strong back and core muscles help support the load better.

7. Maintain good posture.

Rolled back shoulders counter the slumping effect of a backpack.

Managing Existing Backpack Pain

But what if it’s too late and that backpack is already causing pain? Don’t worry – you can take action to manage the pain and help your back feel better! Here are my go-to remedies:

1. Lighten the load immediately.

Take out any non-essentials to reduce strain on back. Ah, sweet relief!

2. Apply heat packs or ice packs.

Heat helps loosen muscles while ice reduces inflammation – great for sore backs!

3. Do gentle stretches.

Basic back and shoulder stretches alleviate stiffness and tension from carrying a backpack. I like shoulder rolls, torso twists, and knee-to-chest moves.

4. Use OTC pain relievers.

For bad flair ups, OTC meds like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can temporarily alleviate pain and swelling.

5. Get a massage.

Massages are amazing for releasing tight back muscles. Even a monthly massage helps manage chronic backpack pain.

6. Monitor pain levels.

Keep a pain journal tracking location, severity, causes, and relief measures. This helps identify triggers.

7. See a doctor for persistent pain.

If pain lasts over 2 weeks or severely impacts activities, consult a physician to rule out any underlying issues. Don’t just live with constant pain!

Backpack Pain Relief Tips
Apply heat or ice
Lighten the load
Do back stretches
Consider OTC pain meds
Get a massage
See a doctor if severe

Preventing Pain from Returning

Once the back pain subsides, it’s time to get proactive to stop it from coming back. Use these strategies to keep backpack pain away for good:

1. Wear your backpack the right way every time.

Use those straps, distribute the weight, and hoist it up properly! Don’t get lazy.

2. Limit backpack weight to 10-15% of your body weight.

Guidelines say this is the max weight your back can safely handle.

3. Lift properly with your knees and avoid twisting.

Use smart mechanics when putting on your backpack.

4. Regularly exercise back and core muscles.

This builds muscle stamina to handle carrying a loaded pack. Yoga is great!

5. Maintain good posture in daily life.

Make rolled-back shoulders a habit, not just when wearing a backpack.

6. Listen to warning signs from your back.

Take action at the first twinge of pain before it worsens.

7. Consider physical therapy.

If you have recurring pain, PT provides exercises and techniques to strengthen your back. Worth looking into!

Tips to Prevent Pain from Returning
Always wear backpack properly
Limit pack weight
Lift carefully
Build back/core strength
Practice good posture
Address pain early
Try physical therapy

Time to Pain-Free Backpacks!

I hope all these tips help you prevent and address backpack-related back pain. No one should have to suffer through school or work days with an aching back! Take action to distribute that weight properly, strengthen your back, and listen to your body. And if the pain returns, you now have plenty of methods to manage it. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll be on your way to pain-free backpack wearing. Your back will thank you!


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