Actual Injuries from Heavy Luggage (+ How to Avoid Them)

heavy luggage injuries

Here at Her Packing List, we’re big believers in packing light and traveling carry-on only when possible. There are so many benefits, such as not paying checked luggage fees and not worrying that the airline will lose your luggage. But there’s another benefit you might not be thinking about.

Packing light is easier on your body.

Heavy luggage injuries are real! Schlepping around a heavy suitcase or carrying a heavy backpack can have lasting effects. Just one more reason to ditch the heavy luggage and pack less!

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were almost 73,000 luggage related injuries in 2014. Read more >>

What is your physical health worth?

Airline fees for checked bags can’t compare to the costs of back, shoulder, and other injuries. Recently we chatted with some members of the HPLWorld community about their experiences with carrying heavy luggage.

Story 1: Jennifer B.

I traveled for a year, with a backpack that got increasingly heavy (and then a second bag with gifts), and a few months later I developed a rather painful sciatica. It lasted several months and even walking was difficult. Nine years later it’s not completely gone, but mostly. Rough to come home without insurance and just hope it heals.

Story 2: Kelsey T.

I was going to England for a year for grad school with two suitcases, one medium sized and not heavy and the other large and probably around 50 pounds. I don’t think anything in it was particularly heavy, but it was so big and I packed it pretty dense. At one point I had to carry it up 3 flights of stairs. At the time I thought the pain in my abdomen was my stomach, upset from stress and different food and water. However, now I’m pretty sure I pulled some of my abdominal muscles.

I had pain, often lasting a couple of hours, several times a week, probably for 2-3 weeks. Which obviously put a damper on my move and getting to meet people and explore a new place. I never sought medical attention for it either, I just tried to wait it out. The one thing I didn’t have in that suitcase was a heating pad which would have helped immensely in this case, ironically enough. In that bag I had brought a lot of things I could have bought once I got to my destination, but didn’t want to spend more money.

Of course, I did have to pay to check that bag, and didn’t end up using many of the things in it enough to make it worth it, not to mention the value of my health. I think in the future I’d pack a smaller bag and bring less, and wait and see more.

Other Stories

Others in the Facebook group mentioned herniated spinal discs, carpal tunnel, and long-lasting back, neck, and shoulder pains. All from traveling with over-packed, heavy luggage.

how to avoid heavy luggage injuries

So what can you do to prevent heavy luggage injuries?

  • Reevaluate what you pack, item by item. You don’t need as much as you think you do. You don’t need all those “just in case” items. Pack like it’s a one week trip, do laundry on the road, and buy things if you need something you don’t have.
  • Stick to one or two color pallets for your travel wardrobe. If all your clothing coordinates, you can mix and match. There’s no sense in packing a pair of pants that only goes with one shirt. A pair of shoes that only matches one outfit will take up precious space in your bag.
  • Pack clothes you can layer. Multiple layers will keep you warmer than one bulky item, they’ll take up less space in your bag, and they’ll give you more versatility when putting together your outfit. And clothes that can be worn in different ways are like having two (or three or 10) outfits in one.

Most importantly, to prevent injuries from heavy luggage, reduce the weight and travel with the right kind of luggage for you. For some, backpacks are a good way to distribute the weight. For others, rolling suitcases are better for preventing back pain. Find out what works for you.

>> This article has some tips for lifting and carrying luggage to avoid injury.

Have you been injured from traveling with heavy luggage?

Written by Ali

Ali Garland is a freelance writer, blogger, and travel addict who made it to all 7 continents before her 30th birthday. She enjoys travel planning, encouraging others to see the world, and packing carry-on only. She and her husband are expats living in Berlin. You can find Ali at Ali's Adventures and Travel Made Simple.

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Gear We Use


Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.

Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

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Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

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