How to Carry Your Weight Around

This academic year, I’ve done a lot of marketing about safety tips for kids and backpacks. The ill effects of carrying too much load and carrying it improperly affects children but it also affects adults who either have a cumulative impact from childhood or are just flat out lazy. The problem is that your posture can be adversely affected which can lead to chronic aches and pains. After a long day in the kitchen, the last thing you want to do is carry more weight on you, especially if your body is fatigued and stressed.

Look at kids carry a backpack and you’ll see them stand with their back like a turtle, their head jutting forward, and rounded shoulders; the worst possible posture ever.  Take a look at an adult and even without an added load, a lot of them still stand with that horrible posture.  Now look at the types of bags people carry around: shoulder bags, messenger bags and purses. See how different types of bags and the ways they are carried affect people’s posture.
Here are a couple of things to think about when choosing a bag to carry around:

  • Pick a lightweight pack that doesn’t add any more weight to what you decide to carry around.
  • Choose a backpack that has wide padded straps, a chest and/or waist belt to even distribute the weight across your body.
  • Multiple compartments, to even distribute the load in the pack.
  • A padded back or mesh that allows breathability for when the pack is on you for long periods of time.

It’s always best to practice good upright posture.  That means standing up tall with your belly button pulled into the spine (engaged, not sucked in) and your head and shoulders in alignment with your spine. When we don’t practice this good posture, the imbalances created in the muscles cause pain, dysfunction and altered mechanics which eventually lead to injury.

When it comes down to it, a backpack is the way to go to carry things around.

Carry the load in the pack closer to the trunk so that there is less compression in the spine.  Place heavier items close in to the body so that it does not add more ‘pull’ away from the body. Be wise and choose what you need to carry around; anything extra is just added weight.

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If the weight is tremendous, a rolling backpack is best but I will admit, a bit more cumbersome.  If you do have any injuries, this truly is the best way to avoid further exacerbation.

The majority of the population has a forward head, rounded shoulder and humpback posture that increases neck and shoulder pain.  Working in the kitchen at your station facilitates this posturing.  Even in your time off, if you sit at the computer, read a book or lounge in a park next to a tree, you’ll end up with this posture. To combat neck and upper back pain, try chin tucks to help realign the neck and shoulder rolls backward to help set the shoulders in their proper position. Remember to use your core (bellybutton pulled into the spine) when in prolonged upright positions and when carrying your pack to and from work as this postural correction really does help in spinal alignment and powering your limbs. You’ll feel better, look better and be more productive.

Dr. Karena Wu
Dr. Karena Wu is owner and Clinical Director of ActiveCare Physical Therapy. She has been practicing physical therapy for 16 years in New York City after she graduated from the Program In Physical Therapy at Columbia University. She received her clinical doctorate in physical therapy from Temple University. She has advanced training in manual therapies, specifically in the Maitland Australian Approach and Myofascial Release. Karena is a Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist, Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Kinesiology Tape Practitioner and Pilates Instructor. She is also LSVT BIG, FMS and SFMA Level 1 Certified. Karena is a dedicated practitioner who takes a holistic approach to her practice. She actively networks with a team of physicians, chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists. Her patient population consists of professional athletes, dancers, celebrity chefs, TV media stars, high end business professionals, and NYPD/FDNY. Karena is used as a healthcare expert on CBS, NBC, NY1, PIX11, Verizon Fios, Fox News and Dr. Oz. She is the Director of Education for SpiderTech Kinesiology Tape and is on the Medical Board of the Association of Volleyball Professionals. Visit her website at