If you're like most women, you love shopping for a new purse. But aside from such considerations as style, fabric, color and price, there's one very important factor that should influence your buying decision: the size of the bag. In addition to being quite functional and a current fashion statement, oversized purses can cause you pain, particularly if you load them up with all of the daily gear you just can't live without.

"Women gravitate toward [oversized bags] because they're very functional," admits Karen Erickson, D.C., a spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association. "We carry around our gym clothes, water bottles, cell phones, and makeup." The problem? Bags that are too heavy can cause pain and spasms. Aside from aches in your back and neck, a bag that weighs you down can cause headaches because the trapezius muscle (the muscle spanning your neck, shoulders and back) goes up into the base of your skull. This can also cause pain to radiate down your arm and into your hand. How to carry your purse comfortably?

Find a bag that's the right size for your body. That up-to-the-minute purse that's as big as a beach tote may be all wrong if you're five feet tall and 100 pounds. Look for something that hits you in the lower ribs and waist area, Dr. Erickson advises. "If it's up under your armpit it's too short, and it if hits your leg it's too long and can interfere with your walk." Choose a strap wide enough so that it doesn't dig into your shoulder. Also be wary of bag accoutrements such as buckles and chains, which add unnecessary weight.

Keep duplicates of everything. Do you really need to drag your entire makeup kit for an evening at a restaurant? Buy an extra of your favorite lipstick and powder and keep only those in your purse. Stash a comb and brush in your car so you can groom yourself without having to carry them around. If you're reading a great book, snag a cheap used copy online and keep it in your office to enjoy during a lunch break. The original can stay on your nighttable.

Lighten your bag. Go through your bag on a daily basis and take things out such as keys you're not using or extra pens. Look through your wallet and remove receipts and loose change. It sounds silly, but those pennies add up.

Switch sides. Don't always carry your bag on the same shoulder. Switch it up so each shoulder carries some of the burden. Wearing your purse across your body is excellent for redistributing weight evenly. If you're stuck with a heavy bag for the day, give yourself a break by taking it off your shoulders, at least from time to time. "Carry it in front of you like a baby," Dr. Erickson urges.


Source: Karen Erickson, D.C.