Home 2015 February 04 Looking after your back – wearing rucksack/handbag

Looking after your back – wearing rucksack/handbag

A couple of weeks ago I had to travel down to London with my laptop on my back.  I am fortunate that this is a rare occurrence, as by the end of the day I could feel the effects of carrying this heavy load on my back, neck and shoulders…

So, as most of us have to carry heavy loads on rucksacks or bags at some point, I was curious to know how it affects us and what we can do about it!

The bad news

  • Carrying heavy loads on rucksack or bags compresses your lower back, causing pain and muscle tension
  • In order to cope with a heavy load (and fight gravity), you will naturally lean forward, rounding your upper back and pushing your neck forward
  • Unfortunately, your shoulder and neck muscles will react to the pressure applied by your bag straps, creating muscle tension and possible muscle fatigue and spasm
  • In addition, if you are one to carry your rucksack (or handbag!) on one shoulder, the weight will pull your shoulder down and you will tend to lean sideways to compensate for the weight, pulling your spine out of line…

The good news – what you can do about it

  • Using a rucksack (rather than a handbag) will spread the load over both your shoulders, allowing your back and core muscles to bear the weight
  • If a rucksack is not for you, make sure you give your dominant shoulder a break! You can wear your handbag on different shoulders on alternative days
  • If carrying a rucksack is a must for you, make sure it is a supportive and lightweight one.  Ideally, it should have a padded back panel, wide padded shoulder straps and compartments to spread the weight.  Also, check any internal frames as it might cause you to lean forward
  • Have a look at what you are carrying and leave non-essential items at home
  • Make sure you wear your rucksack over both shoulders and keep your back as straight as possible
  • Remember to work on your core muscles (pilates is brilliant for this) to help your back muscles.  And to stretch after a long day – some yoga stretches can do wonders!
  • Make time to look after yourself, it can be difficult to walk up straight when you are in pain, and unfortunately it is a vicious circle…
  • Always good to book a good deep tissue massage to relax those overworked muscles 

Hope this has been useful to you… thanks for reading


Author: Unwind Edinburgh

Unwind Edinburgh specializes in Remedial, Sports and Therapeutic Massage in Edinburgh. Our therapies help our clients to relax and help with recovery from sports and muscle injuries.