4 Experienced Chiropractors Share the Best Way to Carry Your Bags

Carrying bags that are too heavy or just carrying bags the wrong way can cause a lot of harm – and unfortunately there are lots of people who fail to carry their bags properly 🙁

To improve how we carry our bags, we have talked with 4 experienced chiropractors and asked them to share their best advice.

Read on and learn from their best tips and tricks (all the chiropractors have lots of experience, so they really know what they are talking about!).

Man with backpack and back pain

The 4 Experts

Dr. John Ulrich
I grew up in Washington state. Our family doctor was a chiropractor, and I became very interested in the art and philosophy of this natural health care profession. I moved to California in 1987 to attend chiropractic college. I graduated in 1991 and have been practicing in the San Francisco Bay Area ever since. I come from a long line of chiropractors and currently have two uncles and three cousins who are chiropractors as well. I love chiropractic and I feel blessed to be able to help patients without using dangerous drugs or surgery.

What are the most common bag-related problems and injuries you see?

Some of the most common problems I see with bags have to do with school age kids. Bags loaded with books and supplies are very heavy and these children’s spines are still developing. Just like a tree can be trained to grow in odd ways so too can a developing spine. A heavy bag slung high on the upper back pulls them backwards then forces the child to crane the head and neck forward as the weight of the bag pulls them down and back. A bag over the shoulder with a waist strap can help prevent lower back injuries. Also, bag weight should be distributed evenly across both shoulders, not slung over one shoulder only. Wider bag straps also distribute heavy weight better and won’t cut into the shoulders.

What kind of bags/ways of carrying bags cause the most problems?

Bags, especially heavy ones should be carried over both shoulders and a waist strap helps to take weight off the upper back and shoulders. A heavy bag that is carried incorrectly is a recipe for neck, upper back, and low back problems. Shoulders can be strained easily while trying to sling the bag onto the back or just repetitively picking it up.

A bag should be packed in such a way as to keep the heavier items closest to the body and in the lowest part of the bag to keep the weight low in the body. Lighter items can be arranged in the outside of the bag and higher up. Too thin of straps can cut into shoulders and back, especially if the bag is heavy. Look for a bag with wide straps. Outside pockets are nice but should only carry small, light objects. Keep heavier weighted items low and closest to the body.

Visit Dr John Ulrich’s website

Beau Pierce, DC
I am a practicing Chiropractor and Lifestyle Medicine expert in Santa Maria, CA.

What are the most common bag related problems and injuries you see?

As far as bags as related I see two main issues:

First, the overall weight of the bag is too heavy. Studies show that the bag/backpack that you carry should never be in excess of 10% of your weight, yet many people load them up with items that simply over weigh their ability to carry and thus the secondary issue of muscle imbalances/compensations come in to play.

These muscle compensations lead to poor posture, pain and spinal imbalances.

What kind of bags/ways of carrying bags cause the most problems?

Children with backpacks and ladies with larger shoulder bags are the two most common bags I see people complain about.

What would you focus on if you were to design the perfect bag?

This is a loaded question.

As far as a backpack, I think having proper lumbar support is important as well as size/design. I do not think all bags are created the same.

Visit Beau Pierce, DC’s website

Dr. Trevor Williams
I was initially a pre-med student at Texas A&M University in Texas when I received my first chiropractic treatment. It helped me with my lower back, which I had injured rowing on the crew team. I began chiropractic school in Houston Texas where I was able to focus on sports injuries, and have since undergone certification in an advanced soft tissue technique called, Active Release.

I really enjoy being a chiropractor because it allows me to focus on the biomechanics of the human body, and correct issues at the source with a drug free approach that is very effective. I now practice in Cary, NC and have a unique patient population being centrally located between three large universities in the central North Carolina region. We work closely with student athletes, professional athletes, and active people of all ages.

What are the most common bag-related problems and injuries you see?

The two major problems we see that can be attributed to bags are: 1) Bags being overloaded and 2) Bags being worn off the side of the body. The biomechanics of the spine and trunk really like symmetry, think about a walking man. Ideally, he’d have his weight evenly distributed along the X,Y and Z axes so as not to stress the spine and extremities. A bag that does not offer cross body support or better yet, two strap support, will often lead to excessive spinal loading. Wearing a bag close to the trunk is very helpful in reducing joint stress. A backpack style bag worn higher and closer to the trunk will create much less stress on the body than a bag worn low, hanging off the body. Worse still is a backback worn low and off one shoulder, forcing the musculature of the trunk to be in constant contraction to stabilize the upper body and torso.

What kind of bags/ways of carrying bags cause the most problems?

Loading a bag is important. Loading heavier items closer to the part of the bag meant to be worn against the body with lighter items further away from the body is the ideal way to load a bag. If the heavier items are carried further away from the person’s center of mass (trunk), then more work has to be done by the spinal musculature and spinal discs to distribute the weight. The more points of adjustment that a bag can offer, the more it will be able to be customized to the body style of the individual wearing it. A single, non-adjustable strap on a bag offers the least amount of variability and likely will lead to more stress on the body of the wearer.

What would you focus on if you were to design the perfect bag?

Weight distribution is key when it comes to bag design. I really like the bags that are worn over both shoulders that also have a strap across the chest. When worn effectively it can reduce the stress on the back. Also important is to have multiple points of adjustability in a bag, so that one can really customize the fit to their body type and be comfortable for longer periods of wearing.

Visit Dr. Trevor Williams’ website

Dr. Sarah Barrow
I’m originally from Hereford but I have lived all over the UK.

I’ve been practicing Chiropractic for over 10 years.

I decided to become a chiropractor after my father suffered debilitating headaches. No one could find a reason or solution for this. He visited numerous doctors and specialists all to no avail. After seeing the local chiropractor this resolved his issue. He has now continued to see a chiropractor through his life and it has led him to lead a much healthier and happier life.

What are the most common bag related problems and injuries you see?

Most children in their teenage years have poor posture due to badly fitting/heavy school bags. Carrying such a heavy load on young developing bones and joints is not a good way to start life. It is important to keep bags as light as possible. Rucksacks worn on two shoulders with the straps well done up is the best compromise, but also making use of lockers in school is important.

With adults, females carrying heavy handbags on one shoulder is particularly damaging to their posture and unfortunately a common problem we see. It can also cause neck and shoulder pain and even certain headaches if the complaint continues for long enough.

All these problems can be addressed and treated by a chiropractor. However to avoid the situation in the first place keep bags light and evenly carried.

What would you focus on if you were to design the perfect bag?

Rucksack, keep it small so it can’t be overfilled. Sturdy padded straps that can be adjusted and well fitted to the individual. Osprey and other similar makes are made for the individual. If it is required you need to carry heavy loads a rucksack with a waist belt is best. This distributes the load more on to the hips and takes it off the neck and upper back.

Visit Dr. Sarah Barrow’s website

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