Right and Wrong Ways to Wear a Backpack

Wear Backpack High on Back to Prevent Pain

Right Way to Wear a Backpack
Right Way to Wear a Backpack. Wendy Bumgardner

Wearing a backpack wrong can lead to more pressure on the neck, shoulders and back, according to researchers.

Always wear both shoulder straps rather than slinging it with one strap on one shoulder. It takes a moment longer but can help prevent problems.

Adjust the shoulder straps so the backpack is high on the back and the shoulder straps are comfortable on the shoulders.

The backpack should not sway from side to side as you walk. That can lead to chafing from the shoulder straps and from rubbing against your back. A stable load is better.

Children should carry no more than 10% of their body weight in their backpack. Be sure that young children are not carrying too heavy of a load in their school backpacks.

If the backpack has a waist strap or pectoral strap, you should use it. Waist straps help to distribute the weight load to the hips, relieving shoulder pressure. A pectoral strap helps keep the shoulder straps in place and reduces swaying of the pack.

This work commuter is wearing his backpack correctly.

Wrong Way to Wear a Backpack -- Using One Strap - Sling Method

Wrong Way to Wear a Backpack - One Strap
Wrong Way to Wear a Backpack - One Strap. Wendy Bumgardner © 2009

It is easy and stylish to carry your backpack slung on one shoulder, using only one strap. However, this position puts all of the pressure on one shoulder. You cannot walk with good posture with a load of several pounds on one shoulder only.

Regularly carrying a backpack on one shoulder may result in bad posture habits and strain to your shoulders and neck.

Take the time to use both straps and position the backpack high on the back, where it won't sway with each step.

Researchers say wearing a backpack slung on one shoulder can lead to poor posture and pain in the neck, shoulders, and back.

This commuter is wearing his backpack wrong.

Wrong Way to Wear a Backpack -- Low on Back

Wrong Way to Wear a Backpack - Low on Back
Wrong Way to Wear a Backpack - Low on Back. Wendy Bumgardner © 2009

Wearing a backpack low on the back increases the pressure on the shoulders. This position may lead to shoulder and lower back strain.

Loosening the shoulder straps makes it easier to put the backpack on and to take it off, but you should adjust the straps immediately, so it rides high on the back.

This low back position may lead to a forward lean, which places pressure on the lower back. Loose straps also allow the pack to sway back and forth when you walk, which can be uncomfortable and may result in the straps chafing your shoulders.

This commuter is wearing his backpack low on his back, with loose straps.


Macias BR, Murthy G, Chambers H, Hargens AR. "Asymmetric loads and pain associated with backpack carrying by children." J Pediatr Orthop. 2008 Jul-Aug;28(5):512-7.

Macias BR, Murthy G, Chambers H, Hargens AR. "High contact pressure beneath backpack straps of children contributes to pain." Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005 Dec;159(12):1186-7.

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