Kids and adults alike often rely on backpacks for easily carrying necessities, including school supplies, items for leisure activities or work and everything in between.

While backpacks come in handy, it is important to know the proper tips and techniques for selecting, packing and even wearing a backpack to avoid pain and injury.

Choosing a backpack

Not all backpacks are created equal, which means some are less suited to reduce pain caused by heavier loads. When choosing a backpack, consider these features to help keep pain to a minimum.

  • Wide, padded and adjustable shoulder straps
  • Padded back, especially in the lower back area
  • Chest and waist straps to help redistribute weight
  • Multiple compartments to help redistribute weight
  • Lightweight material as opposed to leather
  • Correct size for you or your child
  • Wheels, depending on your environment

Proper packing

Choosing the right backpack is the first step to helping minimize back, neck and shoulder pain. However, these accommodations can only help so much depending on the weight of the backpack itself. Follow these packing tips to help keep your backpack as light as possible.

  • Do not exceed 25 pounds
  • Place the heaviest items closest to the back
  • Pack necessary items only to avoid added weight
  • Load compartments so weight is evenly distributed (do not over-pack one side)

Wear it right

Wearing your backpack properly is more than simply putting it on and walking out the door. Keep these steps top of mind to ensure you are wearing your backpack correctly.

  • Always wear both straps
  • Adjust the straps for a snug fit — slightly above the waist and below the base of your skull
  • Ensure you are walking straight when wearing your backpack — if you are leaning forward, it is too heavy
  • Lift your backpack using your legs to avoid back strain

Backpacks are incredibly convenient, and keeping these simple steps in mind can help you avoid long-term back and spine injury. If you or your child experience pain in your neck, back or joints, request an appointment with a USC Spine Center physician or call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) .