What Everyone Should Know About How the Bags We Choose Could Wreck Our Backs

The bags we choose could be causing back pain

Let’s face it. Our bags have become an extension of our lives; and we overstuff them with personal effects and just-in-case items, thinking that we will need them at one point when we go out of our homes. The problem is that our overstuffed bags add a tremendous amount of weight on our backs, causing serious pain and spasms in the long term.

Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics explains, “Over time, the amount of strain that we put on our bodies due to oversized bags can cause some pretty serious pain and even long-term issues like muscle spasms or a pinched nerve.”

Knowing how to choose and wear a bag wisely could save you thousands in therapy and pain relievers; and moreso, could save your back from chronic pain.

1. Ditch the heavy totes – Carrying heavy tote bags and bayong bags could cause endless stress on your hips and shoulders. The off-kilter angle caused by carrying your tote bags on one side could result in an unbalanced gait. Moreover, “carrying a heavy bag on the same shoulder for long periods of time could cause the shoulder to roll forward and downward, which stretches the upper back and neck. This leads to weak muscles and severe issues, such as thoracic outlet syndrome,” Backe exclaims.

2. Handheld bags are straining more than your wrists – Carrying handheld bags increase the tension in your elbows, wrists and hands. “As you walk around, it will also throw off your natural gait, or the way you walk,” explains Gopal Cabrera, chiropractor. “The heavier handheld load will increase tension from your hands and wrists to your shoulders back and neck. If you don't change hands often, this may lead to asymmetries in your musculature and an over-tightening on the side that you carry the bag on. This may lead to wrist and elbow problems as the forearm muscles have to activate to control the weight and may also lead to shoulder and neck issues as your arm gets pulled to one side. Also, they will most likely lead to muscular compensations from your lower back to your upper back when you walk since your arms won't be able to swing freely."

3. Chain strap bags dig into your shoulders – Chain strap and thin strap bags, in general have the tendency to dig into your shoulders and will cause pain over time.

4. Heavy backpacks can cause disc compression in your lower back – In a 2014 study published in Spine, MRIs showed that children with heavy backpack loads suffered from disc compression in their lower backs, which led to lower back pain. Furthermore, the researchers noticed lumbar asymmetry in children who carried heavy backpacks.

With all these being said about our bags, how then, should we wear them?
Charla Fischer, a spine surgeon at NYU recommends approximately 1.3 kg as the maximum weight that we should carry while commuting. More specifically, we should be carrying only until 10% of our current body weight.

When buying bags in the future, Natalie Lovitz, Clinical Director of Professional Physical Therapy in New York, recommends, “The closer it lies to your body the better. Smaller sizes are typically better — the larger the bag, the more likely you are to fill it. The further the bag is away from your center of gravity, the more strain the bag will cause.”

1. Wear a belt bag or fanny pack – Fanny packs and belt bags themselves small and they held very close to the body. This allows for less stress to occur on the joints of the spine and the postural muscles that keep your spine upright.

2. Sling a cross body bag – Since cross body bags are worn across the body, they allow the weight to be distributed more symmetrically. This will help avoid postural strain on your neck, back and shoulders.

3. Wear lighter backpacks – Backpacks, when properly worn are better at distributing equal weight on the shoulders and the lumbar area. Larger straps, which are common features of the backpack, also maximize comfort.

More importantly, it is important to remember that we should not let style cloud our judgment. While the overall aesthetic of the bag could give others an impression about us, we should learn to equally prioritize style and function. Our health and wellness are not worth risking because of style.

Shop for the latest belt bags, chest packs and lightweight backpacks:

ReCreate Convertible City Bag, Kimono Collection


Warrior Essentials Bag


Multipurpose Tool Belt

Adams, Rebecca (2013). Why Your Purse Is Giving You Back Pain. Huffpost.
Lamothe, Cindy (2018). Is Your Bag Wrecking Your Back? Healthline.
Laplaca, Anna (2020). 4 Handbag Trends That Make A Chiropractor Cringe. Who What Wear.
Manning-Schaffel, Vivian (2017) Why Our Bags are Wrecking Our Backs. NBC News.