How to Choose the Best Everyday Bag If You Have Back Pain

Updated: Nov. 23, 2020

To prevent back pain, health experts offer tips for finding an everyday bag—such as a backpack, fanny pack, or handbag—that best suits your needs without compromising your health.

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.

Best everyday bag for your back

At the end of the workweek, you may start to feel an intense amount of back pain. You wonder if it’s because of your poor posture, or because you slept in a weird way, or if it’s because you’re just under a lot of stress to meet deadlines. But, what about your heavy work bag?

“Having too much weight on one side of your body, in particular, can cause back, neck and shoulder pain, and it also causes the spine to curve to the weight-bearing side,” says David Friedman, DC, a chiropractic physician in Wilmington North Carolina. “Over the years, I’ve seen hundreds of females’ x-rays showing a considerably lower shoulder and arthritis formation on the side they carry their purse on.”

The American Chiropractic Association estimates that 80 percent of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives. One of the most common culprits of low back pain, in particular, is associated with the normal wear and tear of daily life, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

That’s why Friedman says it’s so important to choose wisely when it comes to a bag that you use every day. Here are the best everyday bags in each category on Amazon based on reviews. Our experts offer tips to keep in mind when making your purchase, whether you are choosing a handbag, gym bag, backpack, or some other type of everyday bag. (Here are some everyday habits that may hurt your spine.)

herschel fanny pack

Fanny Pack: Herschel Fifteen Waist Pack


Shop Now

The fanny packs and belt bags that ruled the runways in the 1990s are back, and thankfully better than ever. They’re meant to be worn above the hips and around the waist and secured with a buckle, explains Friedman. “Because they are compact, they cause zero stress on the joints of the spine and shoulders,” he says. “They also allow your arms to move freely during walking, which makes them a great option when hiking, attending events or shopping.” (Feel pain? Check out these lower back pain relief treatments.)

the sak handbag

Handbag: The Sak The Kendra Hobo


Shop Now

According to the experts, handbags are okay for your back until you overload them with too much stuff. Also, Ramis Gheith, MD, anesthesiologist in St. Louis, points out that carrying a handbag for a prolonged period of time can strain your wrist, hand, arm and use accessory muscles such as your neck muscles,, causing strain after prolonged use. He recommends that the bag be less than five percent of your ideal body weight for your height.

travelon cross body bag

Cross-body Bag: Travelon Anti-theft Heritage Crossbody Bag


Shop Now

This is a great type of bag for someone who travels often or is typically on the go. It provides both convenience and protection for your belongings. “Cross-body bags more evenly distribute weight over time and are more tolerable as they are carried by your body rather than your arms,” says Dr. Gheith. “However, it is important to switch sides periodically to prevent too much pressure along the shoulder it is anchored on.” He suggests choosing a cross-body that has straps made from thick material which lessens the pressure on your body and shoulders.

baggu cloud tote bag

Tote Bag: Baggu Cloud Bag


Shop Now

Tote bags are very large by design, so you can fit a ton of stuff in them if you try. That’s why it’s important to buy a tote bag that is already lightweight. Dr. Gheith recommends shifting the shoulder you carry your bag on frequently and using a wide strap to cover more surface area. (Try these expert-approved home remedies for back pain.)

herschel duffle bag

Duffle Bag: Herschel Novel Duffel Bag


Shop Now

Best used as a gym bag or for traveling out of town, duffle bags tend to be heavy and strain the back more frequently, notes Dr. Gheith. Since they are not intended to be carried for prolonged periods of time, he suggests using this bag only occasionally during the day or avoid filling it up with anything heavy, like a laptop.

ogio messenger bag

Messenger Bag: OGIO 417053 Pursuit Messenger Bag


Shop Now

As its name suggests, this type of bag was designed with transport in mind. “These bags allow for a comfortable fit and you can easily shift the bag forward for easy access to its contents,” says Friedman. “They are popular among the college elite and professionals, because they have a snappy sophisticated look; however, people tend to overstuff these durable bags with their laptop, tablet, phone, documents, charger, books, etc.” He suggests going as light as possible with contents to ease the strain on your back. (Here are 50 signs that you’re healthy from every type of doctor.)

herschel grove backpack

Backpack: Herschel Grove backpack


Shop Now

Out of them all, backpacks are by far the best for your back. “They equally and more equitably distribute the weight to your spine and often have more straps for your chest and your waist which allows more equitable distribution for your entire torso,” says Dr. Gheith. “This type of bag is my favorite and is most often used by individuals with back pain or those who are more mindful of their spine health.”

kate spade satchel bag

Satchel: Kate Spade New York Medium Margaux Leather Satchel


Shop Now

The satchel is quite similar to a messenger bag, except it has straps and tends to be more stylish. “A satchel bag usually has one handle or a longer strap that is worn diagonally across the body,” says Friedman. “Just like the messenger bag, satchels are often used like a briefcase for storing work related items.” He suggests going light as possible with contents and using the shoulder strap on the opposite shoulder to relieve tension off the neck, back and shoulders. (These silent signs signal your body might be in trouble.)

lacdo laptop bag

Laptop Bag: Lacdo 360° Protective Laptop Shoulder Bag Sleeve Case


Shop Now

“Bags sold just to fit a laptop are often thinner than messenger and satchel bags, but they are also often larger,” notes Friedman. He recommends keeping the bag as small as possible so you aren’t tempted to add heavier items and opting for one with an adjustable strap that has a sliding pad to protect your shoulder. “Not using a bag with padding on the strap can cause added pressure and pain of your shoulder joint,” he says. (Also, check out the ways technology can make you sick.)

nike drawstring bag

Drawstring Bag: Nike Brasilia Training Gymsack


Shop Now

The benefit of drawstring pouch bags, in addition to their small size, is that you can easily hold them across your body and distribute the weight in a more symmetrical manner, according to Friedman. Additionally, they tend to be smaller in size than other types of bags. “However, when not holding them close to your body, the pouch tends to bounce away from the body as you walk,” he warns. “This aberrancy in weight distribution can put a strain on the spine and muscles.” Next, read what happens to your body when you crack your back.