Effects of Carrying Heavy Backpacks On One Shoulder

Carrying heavy backpacks loads in whatever form for a prolonged period can cause strain on your body. The strain can cause excessive damage to one’s back, neck, and shoulder. Over time muscles may fatigue and create a poor posture. This may seem less alarming at first but imagine getting muscle imbalances and getting susceptible to injuries later in life hence causing permanent damage.

If this occurs on carrying heavy loads in the right manner what about carrying your full-to-brim packed school backpack on one shoulder?

There are two types of students, the ones who just don’t care about the trends and the hip and cool group(the versatile warriors whose main objective is staying in the social cloud). The latter category is all about following the trends, being on the know and just ultimately keeping up with the fashion industry.

This is pretty common in many settings but mostly in schools. Here you’re divided into different classes depending on your popularity. Jocks are top of the popularity polls as being the ruthless people always bullying others and walking in squads. Geeks/nerds are always on the receiving end of punches and painful torments. They are mostly the overachievers with great academic records and always top of their classes.

Carrying backpacks on one shoulder has proved to be a timeless fashion statement. It was popular at my time and surprisingly still is today. As a “cool” kid, you want to present yourself as don’t care kinda guy hence compelled to carry your backpack which is always heavy due to carrying your laptop and countless dictionary-size research books on one shoulder.

My humble advice to you is to please stop doing so. If you have to, make sure your backpack is light enough. You don’t want to experience any of these effects of carrying heavy backpacks on one shoulder as I did.

My Experience Carrying Heavy Backpacks On One Shoulder

First of all, let me confess I’m not a licensed physiotherapist or doctor of any sort but as you might have realized by now, I’m an avid fan of backpacks and I used to carry them on one shoulder, needless to say, I once experienced backpains which lasted for a while. Little did I know that the sole cause was my bad backpack carrying habits.

The pains started off as just minor discomforts when sitting down but later on, it got more intense. What really concerned me most was my strength. I mean even lifting 20 kilos in whatever posture had become rather a tremendous hassle. It reached a point where I had to visit a physiotherapist. Don’t get me started on the hefty hospital bill that I was slapped with.

The good news is, my bad backpack carrying habits had not caused any permanent damage and I learned my lesson the hard way.

Doctors all over have warned against the health risks of carrying heavy backpacks on one shoulder but this warnings often land on deaf ears.  Never overlook precaution when your health is at risk.

Effects of Carrying Heavy Backpacks On One Shoulder

Most crucial body parts affected by carrying heavy backpacks are; neck, spinal cord, and shoulders.

1. Body Pains

This habit of carrying your school pack over one shoulder causes strain in your muscles due to the huge uneven distribution of weight. Here the spine retaliates by leaning to the opposite side stressing your lower back more on one side as opposed to the other. This causes muscle spasm and back pain. When pronged, it develops into permanent back problems later in life.

Additionally, you may also suffer pain to the rib cage and the spine if not properly and professionally dealt with and, in time.

2. Unproportional Body Structure

See, the back may withstand a heavy backpack applied on it but once in a while. The load should be evenly distributed between the two shoulders. Carrying the same heavy load often and on one shoulder will not only bring you pain and discomfort but will also lead to having different ground to shoulder heights between your shoulders. In most cases, the shoulder that is often doing the heavy carrying will be lower than the other.

This will also cause a lean forward posture hence shifting your center of gravity overall reducing your body balance. Don’t be surprised if you start falling so easily.

How to Check Whether you are Suffering from Heavy Backpacks Problems

Let’s look at five easy steps to check whether you might be suffering from muscle strain by carrying your pack on one shoulder.You’ll need a mirror as your kick starter. Take your time and check every bit of detail.

  • Check your overall posture in front of a mirror. Check for a slight forward bend and confirm with your photos. Preferably old ones.
  • Check for a forward bend on your spine.
  • Check for a difference in your shoulders inspecting the difference in height when upright and most of all, check for rounded shoulders.
  • If it’s been a long time check for any irregularities in your muscle development. Remember no matter your body shape your muscles should grow evenly.
  • Check your general posture and compare it with old childhood photos. Unless you have a gene abnormality or a medical condition, you should look the same as other people.

If you see any of these differences, please visit a physiotherapist for professional confirmation and treatment.


Remember once bitten twice shy so, to avoid of these effects of carrying heavy backpacks on one shoulder, choose a backpack with padded straps for traveling that will reduce all sorts of strains whatsoever, carry it properly and heed to warnings as prevention is better than cure.

I always have this rule when it comes to my backpack’s weight; its overall weight should never exceed 10% of my total body weight. If it does, I always opt to carry a carry on rolling duffel or a carry on luggage.

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