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There are plenty of ways to choose a suitcase: the design, the durability, the materials. But have you ever thought about which bag may be best for your personal body type?
Between time zone changes and cramped airplane seats, it’s easy to see how travel can be physically stressful. And if you’re lugging around a suitcase that’s not ergonomically suited for your body, you’re setting yourself up for aches and pains on your next trip. In fact, injuries such as pinched nerves, disc bulges and headaches have been associated with travel.
“We take care of many people with travel-related injuries,” New York-based chiropractor Jordan Wolff told TPG. “While we can relieve these symptoms through chiropractic adjustments, I also help guide my patients to make the best decision when purchasing travel equipment. This allows them to reduce stress on their body as much as possible when they are on the road.”
The key, according to Wolff, is to help minimize the undue pressure put on the spine. And basically, there are two different options when deciding on the most ergonomically correct travel bags: rolling or backpack.
“Duffle bags should be avoided for travel because they are putting all the weight on one side of your body and do not usually have wheels on them,” says Wolff. “It is much better to distribute weight evenly with a backpack or take all stress off your body with a good wheeling suitcase.”
But, if you want something even more tailored to your body type, follow these tips to find the best bag for you.
If You’re Short
There’s probably nothing more annoying than feeling like your suitcase has a mind of its own. That can be the case if you’re on the shorter side and have trouble handling a large suitcase with a handle that hits you mid chest rather than at a comfortable waist height.
If this sounds like you, you’ll want to look for a rolling suitcase that’s 22 inches or shorter. At that size, you can still have a decent amount of room without the hassle of a bag that’s 30 inches or more. The Eagle Creek Gear Warrior AWD Carry-On fits the bill as it’s shorter, has a telescopic handle that makes it easy to handle and has multiple handles for easy pickup.
“Also, make sure the wheels rotate 360 degrees, and the bag can be pulled in every direction,” Wolff said. “It is best to pull the bag directly next to you, and avoid bags with one directional wheels that can only be pulled behind you. This can strain the low back and cause torsion on your mid and/or upper back.”
Another trick? Check out the kids’ luggage, as it tends to be built with smaller individuals in mind.
If You’re Tall
While shorter people might feel like their bags are too cumbersome, tall people may find they can’t get enough space with their rolling suitcase. (Think: constantly being hit in the heel while walking through the airport). The fix, according to Wolff, is to make sure the suitcase has an adjustable handle.
The eBags TLS Mother Lode wheeled duffle has one of the most versatile handles, with a three-stage, extra-tall handle that extends up to 45.5 inches. And that comes in a variety of sizes, from a 21-inch carry-on to a 29-inch checked bag. Or, if you love your suitcase and just need a little more length, Amazon sells a handle extender that gives you an extra 12 inches.
If You Have a Long Torso
You might not be 6’7″, but could have a proportionally long torso compared to your height. While a rolling bag with an adjustable handle could work for your travels, backpacks typically tailor to torso length in particular.
The Osprey Atmos AG 65 Pack, for example, can fit a torso length of up to 23 inches in the large size without weighing much more than the smaller sizes. It also has an adjustable hip belt to ensure the weight is distributed properly for your shape.
Wolff also noted that it’s essential to have comfortable shoulder straps with a soft cushion and straps to secure the pack across your chest and waist. “These support straps take stress off your spine and hips,” he said.
If You Have a Short Torso
For travelers with shorter torsos, having a bag that’s big enough to fit your belongings could mean a backpack that’s too long for you. A solution is to look for bags that are geared toward women, who tend to have shorter torsos.
The Thule Guidepost 75L pack does just that and more, as its adjustable back panel allows for six inches of torso range, three different shoulder strap width settings and three sizes of interchangeable hip belts. The torso adjustability lets you have the volume you need without having to settle for a small or medium-size bag.
Also look for a bag with supportive cushioning that goes against your back, because it “reduces stress on the spine,” Wolff said.
It’s important to remember that these guidelines are a starting point, and every person’s body type and spine is unique and different. “The most important thing to remember when trying different bags is to make sure you feel comfortable and supported with the bag you decide to go with,” Wolff said.
Need personal advice? Contact your local chiropractor. He or she will be able to evaluate your body and spine for the most precise recommendations.
Featured image via Shutterstock.
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