My Bag Is Killing Me!
Your purse is stylish, your laptop bag is professional, that diaper bag is practical and your backpack is the epitome of cool. But carrying the wrong kind of bag, or even carrying the right kind of bag in the wrong way, could also be the source of your neck, back and shoulder pain. In fact, in some cases it can even lead to headaches, nerve damage, and long-term postural abnormalities.
In fact, handbags are one of the biggest culprits for chronic injuries in today’s women, and it’s no surprise why. The purses of today look more like army rucksacks than the tasteful clutches or utilitarian handbags of previous generations. If you carried a ten pound bowling ball around in a bag all day, every day, on the same shoulder, you wouldn’t be shocked to hear that it’s going to strain your back and neck. But many women carry around ten pound handbags every day, and unless the act of carrying it causes immediate pain, it often goes unnoticed.
The problems caused by carrying an excessive load arise because your body counterbalances heavy weight on one shoulder by pushing your head and neck forward and laterally rather than keeping them centered over your shoulders. Over time, the muscles and ligaments surrounding your spine become accustomed to this positioning, putting extra stress on the vertebra, discs and nerves exiting the spine.
As a result of this extra stress, at Wellness Way Chiropractic we’re seeing more and more Milwaukee women reporting chronic headaches, neck tension, back pain and sore shoulders. They’re the same kinds of issues we’ve come to expect from kids carrying heavy backpacks on one shoulder. So what should you be doing with a handbag to keep your spine healthy and functioning optimally?
Keep It Light
Your tote should weight no more than 10% of your body weight—so a bag that’s more than 5 pounds from the get-go is a bad start. Add in substantial extras like a laptop, book, water bottle, or extra pair of shoes and you’re just asking in trouble. Make sure to clean out your purse once a month, removing whatever’s not essential.
Carry It Right
Alternate which shoulder you carry your purse on throughout the day. Additionally, because many women have a habit of unconsciously tensing their shoulders to keep straps from slipping, make an effort to keep your shoulders relaxed. If at the end of a long day you find your shoulders tight and aching, don’t be afraid to slip the bag off and carry it in front of your body with both arms like a child.
What To Look For In A Bag
You wouldn’t buy a jacket without trying it on; follow that rule when you’re shopping for a new purse or handbag. Ideally, the bag should fall as close to your center of gravity as possible (around the navel for the average woman). Avoid long-strapped shoulder bags (they pull your thoracic spine to one side in a “C” shape) and look for purses with short, wide straps.
Finally, look for well-organized bags, as shifting items can throw your balance off when you’re walking. Oversize bags aren’t necessarily evil as long as they have compartments to keep your belongings from moving.
If your handbag-carrying habits are causing chronic back, neck or shoulder pain, a chiropractor can help. At Wellness Way Chiropractic in Milwaukee we utilize gentle, non-thrusting spinal adjustments along with specific therapeutic exercises and stretches to relieve symptoms, correct abnormal spinal positioning and prevent future problems. To make an appointment today, call us at 414-367-6050 or use our online scheduling app.