Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ


I'm planning on doing some mountain backpacking this summer. Everyone says I should get a good backpack with lots of straps. What should I really look for?


Good question! Carrying a heavy load up a mountainside is no time to regret bringing the wrong kind of backpack. Many experts suggest a backpack with a frame to help support and distribute the weight. New packs come with an internal frame to avoid the pressure of the bars against your back.

But be aware that while frames may spare your back, they don't necessarily protect your shoulders. Too heavy of a load across the neck and shoulders can cause nerve pressure and damage. For this problem, it's advised to find a backpack with adjustable and padded shoulder and sternum (across the chest) straps.

The idea is to prevent the straps from pulling your shoulders too far back and down from your normal posture. This kind of position can put traction on the nerve with the same risk for nerve palsy.

A waist support is essential to prevent the risk of nerve pressure. This is especially true for anyone carrying a heavy load while using your hands to climb. Finally, even the best backpack won't prevent neck, back, and arm pain or palsy if it's too heavy and/or carried for too long. How much you pack into a good backpack is just as important as the backpack design and features. Jyrki P. Mäkelä, MD, PhD, et al. Brachial Plexus Lesions After Backpack Carriage in Young Adults. In Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. November 2006. No. 452. Pp. 205-209.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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