Backpacks for Back Pain: Find the Perfect Fit for Your Comfort and Health

backpacks for Back pain

What type of backpack is best for your back?

When thinking about the best backpack for back pain, the backpack weight would be healthy and standard when it is 10% to 15% of body weight. 

There is no "best" backpack. Each one would be different for each person depending on several factors such as preference, medical history, fitness level, injury history, and function needed for the backpack. For example, a backpack intended for hiking versus the office would have different features and compartments based on the needs of the user.

However, an ergonomic backpack should have certain features. The "best" backpack would be one with adjustable shoulder straps, a padded back panel, a chest strap, and hip belts. Several brands have these features. Examples of these brands include but certainly are not limited to: North Face, OGIO, CALPAK, Osprey, and several more.

Are backpacks good for back pain?

Backpacks are intended to prevent back pain, but they must be worn correctly to ensure this. Most people wear the backpack too low, and the straps are loose and flimsy. Once you learn how to adjust your backpack for optimal fit, you will be able to tell the difference when it is set up wrong. 

What is the best bag to avoid back pain?

A bag that does not require asymmetrical carrying would help avoid back pain. This also has contributions from the weight of the backpack and the distribution of items in the bag. A backpack or belt bag, also known as a fanny pack, would be an example of a bag that does not require unilateral carrying. However, the belt bag would need to be worn around the hips to avoid unilateral, asymmetric carrying.

Can backpacks cause lower back pain?

Backpacks can cause or contribute to low back pain if they are worn incorrectly. (*See "How do you use a backpack for lower back pain?)

What backpacks are physical therapist-approved?

Backpacks with adjustable straps, padded back support, waist, and chest straps give you the most options to get a proper fit. 

How do you use a backpack for lower back pain? 

A backpack is best used in a certain way to prevent back pain. This can be achieved by following the instructions listed below:

1. Balancing the weight of the backpack in different parts of the backpack.

For example, this can mean not placing everything in the main compartment and using other compartments for smaller items. This can help avoid everything being condensed to the bottom of the bag. This ensures a more even distribution of weight across the back.

backpacks for Back pain image 2 with back pack

2. Lifting your backpack with your legs.

You often hear, "Lift with your legs, not your back!" This concept applies here as well.

3. Put the backpack on a table at waist level before putting it on.

This can help avoid lifting and twisting your back when putting on a heavy backpack. This also helps avoid having to lift the heavy backpack from the floor.

4. The shoulder strap should be firm and adequately fastened.

This keeps the backpack from sagging below waist level and reduces pressure on the low back.

backpacks for Back pain image 2 fix the backpack

5. Use both shoulder straps on the backpack to prevent possible pain and/or injury.

This prevents unilateral carrying of the bag and more evenly distributes the weight of the backpack.

The backpack is designed to be worn on both shoulders to ensure even weight distribution.

6. Appropriate size of shoulder straps

For example, if the shoulder straps are too thin, this may be uncomfortable on the shoulders. They also may not be strong enough to support the weight of the contents of the backpack.

7. The backpack is best placed in the lower part of the back, near waist level.

This helps avoid excessive lumbar lordosis and/or thoracic kyphosis. Excessive lumbar lordosis could be a cause for back pain in the first place, and we want to make sure the backpack is not contributing to this poor posture. 

backpacks for Back pain image 3

8. A full backpack should not weigh more than 15 percent of the user’s body weight.

A heavier load may be too much if the backpack is to be worn a significant amount throughout the day.

9. A backpack should not rest higher than the shoulders. 

This can make the weight of the backpack more unevenly distributed.

profit fit of backpack

What is an ergonomic backpack?

Similar to an ergonomic desk setup, an ergonomic backpack is designed to help the user maintain good posture when used correctly. For example, the backpack is best placed in the middle of the back near waist level to avoid excessive thoracic kyphosis or lumbar lordosis.

In summary, a backpack that is too heavy or improperly worn can contribute to back pain. However, backpacks can be good for back pain because they provide support if they are fitted well and worn properly.

When choosing a backpack that is good for your back, here are a few key factors to consider:

  1. Look for those that come with adjustable and padded straps. This will provide cushioning, minimize pressure on your shoulders, and ensure that the weight of the backpack is evenly distributed along your shoulders and back.
  2. Look for a backpack with the proper size and weight. Choose a size and weight that are appropriate for your needs and body type so that it doesn't put extra strain on your back.
  3. Look for a backpack that comes with good back support. Some backpacks include features such as a frame or a molded back panel that help provide extra stability for your back.
  4. Preferably, choose a backpack with either a waist strap or a chest strap. These can also help distribute the weight more evenly across your body.
  5. Try it on before buying it. Wear it snugly against your back, and make sure it feels comfortable and that the straps adjust properly to your body.

The best backpack for your back is one that fits well, distributes the weight of the contents evenly, and is comfortable to wear. Also, it's always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional if you have ongoing back pain or other concerns.

Call 512-215-4227 to learn how our physical therapist can help. 

Learn more about the best backpack for back pain at

Read our blog on how to handle luggage while traveling here.


  1. Javadivala Z, Allahverdipour H, Dianat I, Bazargan M. Awareness of Parents about Characteristics of a Healthy School Backpack. Health Promot Perspect. 2012 Dec 28;2(2):166-72. doi: 10.5681/hpp.2012.019. PMID: 24688930; PMCID: PMC3963637.)
  1. Hardie R, Haskew R, Harris J, Hughes G. The effects of bag style on muscle activity of the trapezius, erector spinae and latissimus dorsi during walking in female university students. J Hum Kinet. 2015 Apr 7;45:39-47. doi: 10.1515/hukin-2015-0005. PMID: 25964808; PMCID: PMC4415842.