Choose the Right Bag for Your Back and Shoulders

Wondering if your bag could be the cause of your chronic pain? You may be right. Carrying bags that are too heavy or poorly designed can put pressure on the neck and shoulders.

Unless you're going to switch to an ergonomically designed backpack—and most of us are too fashion-conscious to make that concession—a bag is always going to place uneven weight distribution across your shoulders. It can also restrict blood flow and put pressure on the nerves in your neck, causing pins and needles, numbness, stiffness, tingling, or tightness. Choosing, loading, and carrying your bag wisely can help you avoid these issues.

Choosing the Right Bag:

  • Buy small bags. Large ones are too easy to overfill.
  • Select bags proportionate to your frame. (This makes good fashion-sense too!)
  • Select bags with short, wide straps. Adjustable straps are ideal for customizing bags for your frame.
  • Include a clutch or hand-carried bag in your wardrobe to give your shoulders a break now and then.
  • Avoid bags made of heavy materials, such as thick leather.
  • Look for bags with different internal pockets. These help distribute the weight more evenly.

Packing Your Bag:

  • Put as little weight as possible in your bag. The ideal weight is less than three pounds and it should never exceed six pounds.
  • Go through your bag daily to remove extra coins, pens, makeup, etc.
  • If you regularly carry toiletries in your bag, look for lightweight, travel-designed containers and only fill them as full as you need.
  • Lighten up on key chains—just carry the keys you need.

Carrying Your Bag:

  • Use the smallest bag you can each time you leave the house. If you're running errands, do you really need a full makeup kit and spare cell phone charger? Could you just take your wallet?
  • Swap out your bag often to avoid repetitive strains.
  • Change the way you're carrying your bag frequently: switch shoulders, carry it in your hand, and rest it on a surface.
  • When carrying a bag with long straps, wear it across your body so that the weight is more evenly distributed.
  • Keep your shoulders straight—don't slump—under the weight of your purse.

If you're currently experiencing shoulder or neck pain, putting these tips into practice may not be enough to alleviate the problem. Talk to your doctor to see whether you need specific exercises or rehabilitation to deal with an existing strain. The earlier the problem is diagnosed, the more easily it can be dealt with and resolved.



Sources: "Ergonomic Strategies for Using a Purse" The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. Web. 2012. "Handbag Ergonomics" Core Concepts Musculoskeletal Health Group. Web. 2012.