Academics College Life

How To Get Rid of a Pain in the Neck—Literally

Have you ever woken up with pain in your neck? Or have you gone through your day wondering why your shoulder has started to ache again? 

You may blame the mattress pad on your bed for not quite doing the job. But could it be something else?

Now, shoulder, neck, and back pain could be linked to a health problem such as scoliosis. But most of us suffer from a different problem—the book bag.

Wearing a backpack the wrong way or regularly using a heavy shoulder bag could cause your posture to correct to a bad distribution of weight. That correction in your posture causes the wrong muscles to work harder than they should for a length of time. 

The more concerning part is that you may think you can just deal with it. You think, “It’s not so bad. I can handle it for the 7-minute walk to class.”

But think about it like this.

If you just “deal with it” for every class day, every semester, for four years, your body is going to adjust itself accordingly, possibly causing more serious issues in the future. 

So here’s the bottom line: you shouldn’t have to deal with problems later on because of the bag you carry in college.

Read on to learn about some common bag mistakes and how to avoid them. 


Now, I’m a backpack kind of girl. I like to leave my hands free as much as possible. If you use a backpack for class, here are some tips to help prevent soreness or long-term injury. 

Put heavier things toward the back of the backpack.

This makes carrying your books feel a little easier. And it keeps you from having to lean so far forward to keep your center of gravity over your feet, making the bag easier to carry. Having the heaviest books and your laptop closer to your back puts them closer to your center of gravity. It can also keep your back straight.

Bonus: you won’t start looking like the hunchback of Notre Dame.

Tighten the straps so your bag isn’t hanging low on your back.

Keeping your backpack snug to your back helps with that center of gravity again. A low hanging backpack makes you lean forward, putting unnecessary tension on your shoulders and back muscles.

Get the best-sized backpack for your height.

I’m a shorter person. And I’ve discovered recently that this can be a problem. For taller people, having a taller backpack may not be an issue. But, my fellow shorter people, you might find it difficult to make your backpack comfortable if it’s already taller than you are. Try to find a bag that sits within the length of your back so you can adjust the straps easily. 

Shoulder Bags 

Know your limits.

This isn’t like the times where you try to take all the groceries into the house at once because you “don’t believe in second trips.” If you don’t think you should be carrying the amount of weight you have in your bag, try carrying the heaviest item in your arm. It may seem like a hassle, but your body will thank you later.

 Adjust the straps.

Over-the-shoulder bags are easy to carry at a long length, but not if they’re on the heavier side.  Try to shorten the strap so that the bag is closer to your hip or waist—close to your center of gravity. This keeps you from having to correct the added weight of the bag by leaning to the opposite side.

An alternate way to wear an over-the-shoulder computer bag is to pull the strap in, separate the straps, and wear it as a backpack. This can help keep your laptop from being knocked around so much. You’ll be able to manage the weight better, and your laptop will last longer.  

Girls, lose the heels.

My suggestion here is to avoid wearing high heels while using a really heavy shoulder bag. The combination gives your body a hard time in two ways—finding the center of gravity, and correcting it in your upper and lower back. When it’s one of those bigger-book days, stick with flats.  

Draw-String Bags

 Drawstring backpacks are the “fixer-uppers” of bags in this instance, but they aren’t usually so heavy that they cause you to lean forward.

 As someone who uses a drawstring pretty regularly for classes (#seniorstatus), I’ve put an S-clip from Walmart inside the bottom of my bag. This shortens the straps a good three inches so that it’s not hanging so low. Just be careful when shortening the strings—if you make them too short, you’ll lose the functionality of the bag altogether.

 Don’t like pain? Me neither. With a few adjustments, you can relieve some of that back, neck, and shoulder pain you deal with on a weekly basis! 

 Have any other tips? Comment below what they are! I’d love to hear them.  

The thoughts and opinions expressed in Life in the Nest are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Pensacola Christian College.
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