I see many people packing and carrying their bag wrong. Many will see it has in important, but it is very important and why I am able at 49 to carry a large pack for a long distance with next to no issues.
Many will understand that the weight needs to be distributed to the top of the bag and yet important things need to be accessible in case of requirement. This is very true. But not many know why.
Your spine is shaped in such a way as to carry its self and a bearing load in a specific manner. There are synovial joints (liquid filled capsules) between each vertebra all the way down the spine and also muscles between and supporting each spinal section, front side and back (agonist, antagonist and synergist) These synovial joints are filled with synovial fluid which offers lubrication to the joint like the oil in a car ball joint, It protects the articular cartilage from rubbing and wearing away. The lining of the capsule is called the synovial lining which secretes the liquid into the capsule. These capsules are designed to protect the joints in a particular way so as to ensure damage is avoided over time.
If the spinal alignment is out of it's correct and desired line of pressure absorption it will cause the vertebrae to be compressed in the wrong direction. This will also stop the muscles around the spine (the local core muscles) from performing within their range of movement. This over time will cause spine alignment issues and short term back pain and aching during a hike or bag carry.
There is also a connective tissue in the lower back called the thoracolumbar fascia which assists in support and protection of the lower thoracic and lumbar spinal area. This fascia connects lower muscle groups to upper muscle groups and shares the load between the two. A badly carried bag or weight distribution will cause the pivot point to lower and will to a degree bypass the fascia creating too much emphasis into the sacroiliac joint at the centre of the upper hip girdle.
This will create pain to or even in some cases damage to the lower lumbar region and can cause sciatic nerve compression issues. This is why there are some nay options with newer rucksacks. The waist belt is well padded and designed to share weight bearing into the hip girdle rather than just the centre lower back and the shoulder straps allow for good bag alignment down through the spine from the atlas - cervical spine - thoracic - to the lumber and finally into the coccyx area.
Many military designed Bergen's may not have as much support in the lumbar region. This in many cases is because they are designed in the most part to be used with a webbing belt. This allows the Bergen to sit on top of the kidney pouches. These are mainly the older Bergen's as the newer options now have good lumbar support and a generous waste belt. Packing the weight to the top of the bag again ensures the bag removes emphasis from the lumber pivot point and allows the weight to be directed down through the spinal correctly, NOT so the shoulders can take the weight. Too much weight into the cervical spine and shoulder area will cause upper nerve issues and can leave you with nerve impingements and ulnar nerve compression issues which in many cases will show as pain in the shoulder or elbow region due to nerve feedback looping going on... these impingements can be painful and difficult repair.
So DO NOT tighten your shoulder straps up to take the weight of your pack! Allow an even distribution of weight from the shoulder through to the hip girdle.
Some of the old army bags do not allow for a correct distribution without a webbing belt so just ensure you do not overload these bags or carry them for extended distances.
I hope this helps someone?
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