- Avoid carrying more than 5% of your body weight
- Distribute weight as equally as possible between both shoulders
No matter what your age or profession, most people carry some sort of bag, whether it be a school backpack, a purse, a diaper bag, shoulder bag or even a lap top carrier. Although this is a convenient way to tote a lot of things around, or even make a fashion statement, most people overlook the fact that these bags may often be the source of serious neck and back pains. These muscle pains are very common and are often linked back to an over loaded or improperly fitted bag.
What happens when you carry an over loaded bag:
When all the weight of your purse or bag is put onto one shoulder, it forces your body to carry an asymmetric load, and this changes your natural posture. Most people tend to wear their purse or bag on their dominant side which enlarges the muscles on that shoulder, particularly the trapezius muscle (a muscle on top of your shoulder). Over time, this can result in one shoulder being higher than the other, putting your whole body out of alignment. All that extra pressure on one side of your body can result in a lot of tension in your neck and shoulder, and in some cases, it can become more serious and cause muscle spasms.
Throws off natural gait and posture:
When you constantly wear a purse or bag on the dominant side of your body, it can throw off your natural gait. The arm on the side carrying the bag is unable to swing properly, forcing the other side to compensate. Holding bags in the crook of your arm or in one hand can build tension, and damage your posture.
Carrying over loaded bags can cause a lot of pain and may even develop into tension headaches. The additional weight and pressure put on the trapezius muscle, can force it to tighten and spasm. When the muscles in the neck and shoulder area spasm, it can cause pain in the back of the head that radiates towards the front of the skull.
Things to avoid:
- Carrying too many items in your purse or shoulder bag.
- Holding bags in the crook of your arm or in one hand.
- Hanging backpacks off of one shoulder, as it strains your neck and puts all of the weight on one side.
Things that can help:
- Pack light and swap shoulders.
- Make sure to regularly empty large bags to prevent carrying around unnecessary items.
- When carrying a big bag, wear the long body strap to balance weight between both sides of the body.
- Keep bag within 5% of your body weight.
- When wearing a backpack, adjust straps so bag sits high and fits snug to your back.
For more information, or if you have any concerns, please contact our clinic to book an appointment and consult with one of our therapists.
Adams, Rebecca. “Why Your Purse Is Giving You Back Pain…and 11 Ways to Fix It”. The Huffington Post. Web, 12/09/13. <www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/purse-back-pain-n-4397727>
Armstrong, Rebecca. “How to Carry your Bag to Avoid Shoulder Pain”. Myodetox Web, 13/01/17