The Best Backpacks for Back Pain Relief: A Comprehensive Guide 

 June 1, 2023

By  Diane Wuthrich

Back pain can be a nuisance. Whether it’s a persistent issue or something that flares up from time to time, it can be difficult to know what to do. It may sound counterintuitive, but the answer may actually lie in your backpack. That’s right: the way you carry the things you need on the road can actually play a crucial role in alleviating or preventing back pain. 

The best backpack to relieve back pain would depend on your individual needs. Look for ergonomic designs that offer lumbar support, adjustability, and cushioning. Also, make sure it has the right capacity and weight distribution for your items.

Through trial and error and research, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help you pick the perfect backpack for your back. 

What to Look for in a Backpack for Back Pain

When looking for a backpack that can relieve back pain, there are several factors to consider. First, the overall size and weight of the backpack are important. A backpack that is too heavy can cause shoulder and neck strain, which in turn can lead to back pain. Even the best bag won’t help much if it’s overloaded with a dozen textbooks and thirty pounds of equipment.

In addition to total weight, it’s also important to consider the weight distribution, which typically depends on the number of compartments and how they’re loaded. Make sure to look at reviews from customers who have a similar build as yours, as different people may feel differently about the comfort of certain backpacks.

Another factor you should consider is the quality of materials used. If you choose high-quality materials such as nylon or polyester, your bag will last longer and be less likely to tear over time. On the other hand, some have argued that synthetic fabric does not provide adequate ventilation for the sweat on your back, which can cause discomfort during prolonged use. If possible, compare backpacks made of high-quality organic and synthetic materials side by side to determine which material is better for you in terms of comfort and durability.

It can be intimidating to navigate through all these considerations when looking for a backpack that relieves pain. However, if you consider the size, weight distribution, and materials used in the bag design, you can narrow down your choices and find a backpack that fits your needs perfectly. Once you have decided on the ideal backpack, the next step is to make sure it is suitable for back pain relief.

Design Considerations for Back Pain Relief

When choosing a backpack for back pain relief, it is important to consider the design of the bag. Aesthetically, people often buy based on visual appeal and style preferences, but if you want to find a bag that will help with back pain, it is important to pay attention to the design details. It is also wise to consider the type of material used, as sturdy fabrics that can withstand wear and tear tend to offer more support than their flimsy counterparts. Additionally, the straps and buckles should be sufficiently adjustable so that you can customize the fit and weight distribution.
On the one hand, lightweight bags relieve pressure on the shoulders and back, making them an ideal option for people with chronic pain. On the other hand, bulkier bags offer more storage space and better protection from impact, which is beneficial for people carrying heavier or high-value items such as laptops or digital devices. Furthermore, choosing a good-looking bag can lift your spirits and make carrying a load more comfortable — even if it doesn't necessarily offer you concrete pain management benefits. Ultimately, the right balance between form and function depends on individual preferences and lifestyle requirements.

Ultimately, choosing a design that best suits your needs while being durable, comfortable to use, and visually appealing is key to finding a backpack that will help relieve your back pain. When choosing, you should be guided by your personal needs and preferences, as everyone’s body adapts differently to different designs. With these design considerations in mind, let’s now turn to ergonomic and structured backpacks that are among the best options available for people with chronic back pain.

  • A study published in 2005 found that carrying a backpack with over 10% of body weight increases pain and discomfort in the lower back region.

Ergonomic and Structured Backpacks

When it comes to relieving back pain, ergonomic and structured backpacks are two important design considerations that should not be overlooked. Ergonomic backpacks are designed to distribute the weight of the backpack evenly across the wearer’s shoulders and torso, reducing pressure on the spine. Structured backpacks are specially designed to provide support for unusual shapes, such as laptops and textbooks.
Proponents of ergonomic and structured backpacks argue that these designs help keep the load secure. When the weight of the backpack is better distributed, less strain is put on the wearer’s back muscles. This can prevent spinal pain caused by carrying an overloaded bag or heavy items in a single pocket or compartment. People who suffer from chronic back pain have benefited greatly from using an ergonomic backpack and report significant relief in as little as one week.
Those who oppose ergonomic and structured backpacks claim that these styles are often too bulky and cumbersome. Larger bags can make it difficult for wearers to easily get through doorways or narrow hallways, resulting in limited mobility over time. In addition, these types of bags can cost more than a traditional book bag due to their higher quality materials.
No matter what you think of ergonomic and structured backpacks, one thing can’t be denied: their thoughtful design makes them a great option for anyone for pain relief while carrying a heavy load. While they are not suitable for everyone, those who suffer from or are prone to back pain should take a closer look at these types of backpacks before making a decision. For added comfort and convenience, consider adjustable shoulder straps and padded frames – topics we will address in our next section.

Ergonomic and structured backpacks are beneficial for people with back pain as they distribute weight better, reduce pressure on the spine, and provide support for items such as laptops. Some may argue that these styles are bulky and more expensive, but they can bring great relief for people with back pain. For added comfort, you should also look for bags with adjustable shoulder straps and padded frames.

Adjustable Shoulder Straps and Padded Frames

When it comes to finding a backpack that is not only comfortable but also relieves back pain, adjustable shoulder straps and padded frames are essential features. With adjustable shoulder straps, you can customize the level of support you need and have the freedom to distribute the weight of your luggage evenly across your torso. Padded frames, either air or foam, help minimize the strain on your back by distributing the load evenly across your shoulders and back while providing good cushioning during long periods of carrying.

The advantage of both adjustable shoulder straps and padded frames is that they reduce or eliminate the discomfort of carrying a heavy load. The ability to adjust the shoulder straps makes the user feel more secure in their bag and helps relieve muscle tension that can be caused by over-exertion or incorrect positioning. Additionally, a padded frame ensures comfort on a long-distance trip or during daily activities.

This combination of adjustable straps and padding frames makes for a great foundation when choosing a backpack to relieve back pain. It is important to find a bag whose design is tailored to the user’s needs. This means considering factors such as size and weight, as well as desired comfort levels. Without these features, backpacks can be uncomfortable and put extra strain on the body.

Having discussed ergonomic and structured backpacks in the previous section, we now move on to take a closer look at the high-quality materials that provide comfort and support in backpacks. Materials such as neoprene, ventilated mesh, breathable fabric and lumbar control systems play an important role in the overall support provided by a backpack and should be considered when buying a backpack for back pain relief.

Quality Materials for Comfort and Support

The quality of the materials used in the construction of a backpack is an important feature that should not be ignored when searching for a solution to relieve pain. People who suffer from back pain need to ensure that their backpack has the necessary elements for comfort and support, such as shoulder straps with breathable padding so that the weight is distributed evenly. The frame of a backpack should be sturdy and made of lightweight materials to avoid putting unnecessary strain on the wearer's back, neck, and shoulders. Additionally, some backpacks can benefit from extra padding, such as memory foam, which molds to the body for greater comfort during prolonged wear.

While most people agree that higher quality materials are beneficial in relieving back pain, there will always be room for debate as to whether luxury options like memory foam are necessary or too costly for certain individuals. Those who feel luxury options are unnecessary might argue that a sturdy but lightweight backpack of average quality will suffice — after all, it is designed with adjustable straps and padded frames to distribute the load evenly. On the other hand, those who prefer more luxurious options could claim that memory foam provides an extra layer of comfort and support that cannot be achieved by conventional padding alone.

To find the perfect combination of comfort, support, and affordability to ease back pain, you need to do a little research and experiment. You need to weigh all your options carefully when choosing a quality backpack that suits your needs. Once you have decided on a combination that works for you, you can move forward with confidence knowing that your journey to pain relief begins every time you wear your comfortable and supportive backpack. As you prepare to make this important purchase, don't forget to consider very important factors: load-carrying capacity and weight distribution. Both features need to be considered if you want to maximize your pain relief by wearing a backpack.

Load-Carrying Capacity and Weight Distribution

To ease back pain, it's important to choose a backpack that not only has good material quality, but also has the right load-carrying capacity and weight distribution. Experts have different opinions on how to distribute the weight to minimize strain on your back and muscles, with some suggesting to evenly distribute it on both shoulders and others recommending keeping the backpack away from your back.

On the one hand, a backpack that is evenly distributed on both shoulders can ensure that your body is fully supported by both straps and provide some comfort. On the other hand, a backpack away from your back can create less resistance when gravity pulls it down and allow for tighter movements of your upper body, relieving strain on the muscles in the lower back. What’s best for you ultimately depends on your personal preferences and anatomical considerations.

Regardless of which weight distribution you prefer, a separate hip compartment with an adjustable waist strap can be beneficial as it relieves pressure on your shoulders and places more emphasis on the support straps around your waist. Such features help shift the load from one side of your body to the other, which can often be helpful in promoting even pressure distribution and balance.

To choose a backpack that's not overpacked or under packed, look for adjustable sizes with multiple exterior pockets for extra stability and flexibility. Proper load-carrying capacity helps balance weight and minimize potential structural imbalances that could affect back health in the long run. Considering these factors can make finding the best backpacks for back pain easier and maximize comfort levels.

The Best Backpacks for Back Pain

To find the best backpacks for back pain relief, it is important to consider both load-carrying capacity and weight distribution. Choose a backpack that can comfortably carry your necessary items and has proper weight distribution to avoid leaning too heavily on one side. The best backpacks for back pain will limit the overall load and distribute it evenly across the hips and shoulders.
It can be argued that a lighter load is better for preventing or relieving back pain. Smaller backpacks that distribute a light load on the shoulders and hips can prevent strain in the first place, as less weight presses on the body. This allows for more comfortable movement and prevents long-term damage caused by heavy loads leaning too much on one side of the body. However, when used responsibly, bags with larger capacities can still help prevent back pain. When properly loaded, these bags can distribute the weight evenly across the shoulders and hips. This puts less strain on any one part of the body and distributes the force more efficiently overall.
Evidence from experts support both sides of this argument. Research suggested that using smaller sling bags could potentially reduce neck and upper back muscle tension from carrying heavy loads. On the other hand, another study found that distributing heavier loads across both the shoulders and hips reduced lower back tension more effectively than when only one shoulder bore more of the burden .

Overall, selecting a backpack with an appropriate weight capacity and good weight distribution is key to finding a backpack that provides maximum comfort while avoiding potential back pain. While lighter backpacks may be beneficial in some cases, heavier backpacks with even weight distribution may be just what you need to avoid straining your upper and lower back. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which type of bag best suits your needs and body type to achieve maximum comfort.

Our Recommendations For The Best Backpacks For Back Pain

Thankfully, there is no need to look far and wide for the best backpacks for back pain. Below is a list of top-rated models, with a discussion of their characteristics as well as some pros and cons. Be sure to check them out and what they are good for before you make your decision. 

Best Travel Backpack For Back Pain: 

Osprey Farpoint Trek 55: Osprey is an American company specializing in the design and manufacture of outdoor backpacks. They are renowned for their top-quality backpacks with the best fit possible, featuring a wide range of choices for men and women who want to go on many different kinds of adventures – from travel to hiking, and everything else in between.

If you are looking for a comfortable travel backpack that prevents back pain, the Osprey Farpoint Trek 55 is highly recommended. It has several outstanding attributes for maximum comfort, especially for your back and shoulders. In fact, the Trek’s predecessor, the Farpoint 55, has long been one of the most famous best-selling packs among seasoned travelers. 

Osprey simply made a few improvements to an already terrific bag, while retaining many of its well-loved features. This is a great choice for outdoor activities like hiking and camping because the ultra-tough 420HD Nylon Packcloth fabric is so durable that it can withstand just about any adventure, even if you have to trek through dense and muddy terrain.

However, it’s worth noting that the back panel of the Trek 55 has undergone the most major improvements, making it even more comfortable to wear. The original Farpoint left much to be desired in the ventilation department, which meant that it wasn’t ideal for use on hot days. But the Trek 55’s AirSpeed trampoline mesh back panel is designed with thick padding and high-quality mesh to promote breathability. 

It’s good to know that Osprey kept the padding throughout the backpack, most especially for the hip belt in the Trek55. This is essential for increasing comfort and reducing back pain when carrying a heavy load. They also do an excellent job at redistributing the weight from the shoulders to the hips, keeping you comfortable during treks. 

The Osprey Farpoint Trek 55 is great for land adventures, though it may not be the best choice for airplane travel unless you don’t mind checking it in. The dimensions are 28H x 15W x 12D, which is far too large for domestic and international carry-on restrictions. 

Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 30L: If you are looking for a travel carry-on backpack for back pain, the Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 30L can’t be recommended enough. This carry-on-compliant travel backpack is stylish and made from durable, recycled materials. 

Travelers can carry this bag in any of three ways: as a backpack or shoulder bag, while grab handles make it easy to carry by hand as well. These are fantastic options for anyone who doesn’t want to have to carry a backpack on their shoulders at all times. It’s also the perfect size for quick trips and airplane travel, making it an unmatched choice for versatility and flexibility.

The Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 30L is also equipped with a luggage strap, allowing you to easily attach it to rolling luggage or suitcase. The modular carry system and U-shaped access make it easy to pack and unpack while giving you better visibility of the bag’s contents and clothes without having to dig through them. There are several pockets to help you stay organized, including a laptop compartment in the back panel, side water bottle pockets, and a vertical exterior zippered pocket. 

The shoulder straps are adjustable and generously padded, while the load-lifter and sternum straps let you adjust the pack’s fit for maximum comfort in various travel situations. The carry handles on the top and side increase versatility too. These are extremely helpful for preventing back pain, especially on those days you have to carry more or less weight than usual. 

Upon wearing the backpack, it becomes clear that Topo Designs really had your comfort in mind. That said, this backpack ticks all the boxes for travel. There is a larger 40L version available for those who need more space.

The bright colorways and modular design are unisex and can be appreciated by a wide range of ages. However, there are a few things Topo Designs can improve on. For one, the interior compartment is just 7 inches deep, which can be far too shallow for travelers who aren’t minimalists, almost giving it a briefcase-like feel.

Some of the hardware, such as the shoulder strap clip, are rather flimsy in quality and can break off easily. Metal or brass hardware would be much more durable and better suited for traveling. 

Despite that, the Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 30L is a well-rounded choice for travel and carry-on use while preventing back pain.

Best Laptop Backpack For Back Pain

Nomatic Travel Bag: Whether you need a backpack for school or work, the Nomatic Travel Bag 40L is a fantastic choice for back pain. It was designed for individuals who need to carry around a computer plus other electronics and gear to and from work or school.

Few other backpacks can compare to the superior organizational system found in the Nomatic 40L Travel Bag. It’s easy to see why this is especially popular among business travelers: there are pockets for almost everything you need to stay organized, including a waterproof pocket for liquids, a felt electronics compartment, a mesh laundry bag, ventilated shoe pocket, and much more. It’s also TSA-friendly since the padded laptop sleeve opens up in seconds, so you can pass through airport security without any hassles.

A sleeve right outside the laptop compartment can be used to safely keep documents or store a tablet. Meanwhile, the main compartment is extra spacious, and it opens wide for easy packing and unpacking. That’s not all: the Nomatic Travel Bag is famous for comfort as much as it is for organization and storage pockets. 

Adjust the fit of the backpack easily with the adjustable sternum strap, detachable waist belt, and wide shoulder straps. The waist belt is thickly padded and breathable, while a handy zipper compartment can be found on each side. One of the major highlights of the pack’s comfort features is the ergonomic shoulder straps; the slightly curved design is extremely effective in preventing pinching. 

The Nomatic Travel Bag 40L is also a great travel companion. Depending on your packing style, it can fit clothes for a quick weekend trip, or a week-long excursion. Another excellent feature of this bag is that it can be carried as a duffle bag, which is convenient though it can be quite heavy to carry with one hand if you’ve filled it up. 

Even if this backpack could have better support in the back panel, it’s still surprisingly comfortable. That said, the Nomatic Travel Bag 40L could be improved with better padding all throughout. It could also be significantly better for back pain, especially if they made the hip straps heavy-duty. 

The zippers could do with some improvements since they tend to get stuck when zipping or unzipping in corners of the pack. Interior compression straps would also come in handy for traveling. Additionally, a USB port would have been a nice touch for individuals who want to make sure their devices are always charged. 

Overall, the Nomatic Travel Bag is a good backpack for short trips or commuting. It’s one of the pricier options on this list, but a more affordable laptop backpack choice can be found below. 

GBY Ultralight Laptop Day Pack: GBY Ultralight is an American brand based out of Los Angeles that specializes in designing incredibly light laptop backpacks for everyday use. The GBY Ultralight Laptop Day Pack is the perfect kind of bag for people who want to reduce the weight of their load to prevent back pain.

This pack boasts of being the lightest laptop backpack in the whole world, weighing just 12.7 ounces or 363 grams! It’s constructed out of waterproof Japanese double-coated ripstop nylon so you don’t have to worry about durability. This pack can fit up to 16” Macbooks as well as large tablets. 

There are so many impressive features to be found in this bag, aside from its light weight. Whereas many other lightweight laptop backpacks lack the necessary laptop protection for your expensive electronics, this bag has all the protection found in heavy-duty laptop backs. But without the weight!

Your laptop is protected from drops and scratches with GBY’s 360HD high-density foam, which is found throughout the backpack length. The reinforced bottom shields your laptop from accidental hard drops on the floor. 

Additionally, the GBY Ultralight Laptop Day Pack is designed with an ergonomic fit. The spacing, shape, and padding found in its shoulder straps have been designed for maximum comfort. When you combine that with their use of advanced fabric technologies, you can be sure this is one of the best choices for laptop backpacks that prevent back pain.

GBY stands by its word, too: all their bags have a 1-year warranty, in case you receive one with a construction defect. It’s also affordable, especially when considering it weighs close to nothing. 

However, keep in mind that this backpack comes with minimal pockets: one interior mess pocket, which is ideal for keeping a notebook, your wallet, and a laptop charger, as well as a small outside zip pocket for small essentials. The more pockets a backpack has, the heavier it weighs, which is why GBY didn’t include many in this model.

That may be a challenge for individuals who commute or travel with plenty of other items aside from laptops, though you can simply make use of packing cubes. Minimalists will appreciate this, though!

Best Women’s Backpack For Back Pain

North Face Jester Women’s Backpack: Gender-specific backpacks are important for a better fit and reducing back pain. This is especially true for women who are petite and have narrower bodies. Since women already have a lower center of gravity compared to men, choosing a backpack that fits your frame is essential for overall comfort while reducing pain in your shoulders and back.

Among the sea of women’s backpacks, the North Face Jester Women’s Backpack stands out for comfort. Its versatile design enables you to use it as a day pack, travel backpack, school, or even a hiking backpack. The 22L storage is a lot of space to hold everything you need for a day. 

In fact, The North Face Jester is one of the brand’s most famous models. It has long been a bestselling model, but that hasn’t stopped them from making continuous updates. This women’s Jester, in particular, has several improvements from its predecessor, including better organizational features, using more recycled materials, and a new endorsement from the American Chiropractic Association.

The North Face has incorporated its renowned FlexVent suspension system into this backpack, which is an effective technology for all-day comfort. It also includes a thick padded mesh back panel as well as shoulder straps which perform extremely well in increasing comfort even when used for long periods of time. The custom injection-molded shoulder straps are designed for maximum comfort, while the breathable lumbar panel provides terrific ventilated support even on warm days. 

The North Face Jester Women’s Backpack is constructed especially for women, evident in the smaller and narrower shoulder straps and sternum strap. These are particularly useful when carrying heavy loads. It’s also great that adjusting the shoulder straps and chest straps can easily be done within seconds. 

This model comes in several beautiful feminine as well as neutral colors. It’s 11 x 6.75 x 17.25 inches, which is compact enough. It also has a padded laptop sleeve inside for computers up to 15”.

There are many details and features to appreciate in The North Face Jester Women’s Backpack. However, keep in mind this may not be suitable for outdoor activities because it tends to fall forward, no matter how the pack is loaded. The size may be too small for college use, but it’s ideal for women who need a compact daypack. 

The North Face is known for making bags that are well-thought-out in terms of design, durability, and comfort. This is no exception. 

Best Hiking Backpack For Back Pain

Rusel Molly Hiking Backpack: Hiking is an exciting outdoor activity, but this means you’ll be on your feet for several hours. It’s always best to use the most comfortable backpack you can find to prevent back pain during a hike.

The Rusel Molly Hiking Backpack has ticked all the boxes for preventing back pain during outdoor activities. The ergonomic S-type shoulder straps do a great job at relieving pressure on your shoulders, while the thick padding keeps you comfortable all day long. The shoulder straps are also made with breathable sponge fabric for improved ventilation and relief from back pain. 

Even though it’s called a hiking backpack, there are numerous features throughout its design that enable it to be a multipurpose outdoor backpack, such as the presence of a harness. It can also be used for backpacking and camping. The adjustable straps are convenient for attaching a sleeping bag, hammock, tripod, or other accessories you may need for travel.

The roomy 50L capacity can hold enough belongings for a 3-day trip, or longer for minimalists. It’s also completely waterproof, constructed with rip-stop nylon, for peace of mind when traveling in unpredictable weather. While many hiking backpacks are heavy because of the use of a frame, the Rusel Molly Hiking Backpack is frameless for a lighter, more comfortable carry. 

The chest straps and waist straps are useful when the pack is loaded to full capacity. It weighs just 1.7 pounds, which is impressively lightweight considering its size and features. Furthermore, it costs under $30 which is an extremely affordable price considering the high quality of its materials, and terrific craftsmanship. 

However, they could have widened the gap between the shoulder straps. Individuals with larger frames may find the narrow gap uncomfortable. Heavier-duty zippers would also make this bag more durable. 

That said, the Rusel Molly Hiking Backpack is still a good choice for outdoorsy people who want to prevent back and shoulder pain. It would likely be better suited for less rugged adventures; you may want to choose a backpack from a famous brand such as The North Face or Osprey if you are going on lengthy trips.   

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any backpacks specifically designed for people with back pain?

Yes, there are backpacks that are specially designed for people with back pain. These backpacks focus on features that provide added comfort and support, such as adjustable straps, ergonomic design, special paddings, and shock-absorbing systems. Many of these backpacks also feature additional compartments and pockets to distribute the weight evenly, which can prevent painful slouching in the back.

Some of these backpacks also come with individually adjustable straps to ensure the best possible fit. If you suffer from chronic back pain, investing in one of these specialized backpacks could be an excellent way to relieve your pain from carrying  heavy loads while staying mobile.

Are there any special features that a backpack should have to help relieve back pain?

Yes, there are special features that a backpack should have to help relieve back pain.

  1. It should have adjustable straps and a waist belt that will allow the user to adjust the fit to their body type and posture. This distributes the weight more evenly and reduces the strain on the shoulders, neck, and back. 
  2. The backpack should have soft, padded shoulder straps and a padded back panel, as this provides extra padding and minimizes pressure points. 
  3. The weight of the backpack itself should be light to make it easier to carry. 
  4. Look for backpacks with airflow panels or mesh materials in the areas that come into contact with the body, which provide ventilation and moisture transport and thus reduce perspiration. 

Lastly, consider buying a backpack with additional lumbar support, which can provide both comfort and protection from further injury.

Are there any tips to reduce back pain while carrying a backpack?

Yes! Wearing a backpack properly can help relieve back pain. Firstly, make sure the straps of your backpack are tight and secure around your shoulders - this distributes the weight of the backpack evenly across your body rather than putting undue stress on your spine and other areas. 

You should choose a backpack with adjustable straps that allow you to adjust the fit - this ensures that the bag is neither too tight nor too loose and is tailored specifically to you. 

And, always remember that the backpack should not weigh more than 10 percent of your body weight. This will ensure that you do not strain yourself too much when carrying it for a long period of time. All these tips can help minimize existing back pain while ensuring that you can sit comfortably throughout the day.

About the author

Diane is our head writer and researcher for our backpack informational content. Her everyday carry is a Herschel.

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