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The Handbag Dilemma- One Stylish Cause for Neck Pain...

Posted Mar 09 2010 12:00am 1 Comment

We talk about heavy backpacks for kids these days, what about women and their handbags? I cannot tell you how many times I have picked up one of my patients purses and it felt like she had 3-4 bricks inside. Carrying this on one shoulder? No wonder so many women with heavy bags come experience neck pain, headaches and upper back pain. Even celebrities have taken carrying the large purses to another level!

Large handbag Carry a large purse over one shoulder can set a woman up for neck pain, upper back pain, shoulder pain, arm pain, headaches and sometimes even tingling in the arms and hands. It throws the posture off thereby causing an imbalance of the muscles and compression of nerves in the neck and shoulder area. This can cause tightness, pain and soreness. These days we are high tech society and we love our gadgets- With carrying laptops, blackberry’s, water bottles, wallets and other objects, the weight of a handbag can even get up to 16 lbs.

Yes, I know these bags are stylish. I know they are the hip thing to wear these days. For me to suggest that one use a knapsack and carry it on both shoulders would be a little impractical. Knapsacks don’t exactly go with high heels (another potential cause for lower back discomfort). This past weekend, my best friend came to visit me from Boston She is avery smart, stylish and practical gal - and I noted that she had this awesome purse that she carried over and across her shoulder- also known as a messenger bag. The bag was small to medium size and she had her essentials in there- including I noticed: a water bottle, makeup, a large wallet, gloves. I was amazed at what came out of this bag ! With the long wide strap she was able to wear the purse across her shoulder, thereby distributing the weight evenly. Also, the purse was kept close to her body which also made it more more comfortable. We went shopping for a few hours and she was as comfortable as could be. Messenger bag

So ladies, next time you complain about your neck pain look to your stylish purse as one potential hazard.Consider getting a purse that you can carry over your shoulder if you are going to be on your feet for awhile. If you must carry “the purse” then consider lightening the load. Also instead of carrying it on your shoulder, just hold it by the straps and use your hands. Switch sides often. Then you can carry that large handbag without pain and soreness !

Comments (1)
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Hi Nav J., thanks for the tip about carrying the hand bag in your hand. I know I eventually have to come to this.

If I may suggest: I have been carrying my purse across like your friend does and can confirm that it creates the exact same problems to the neck (stiffness and sometimes tingling), shoulder (pain), arms (pain) and hands (tingling). And so does carrying heavy grocery bags on a regular basis. Good thing these pains are not constant! I have regularly seeked treatments in the past 5 to 6 years when it gets worst.

Maybe there is a slight difference between carrying the bag on one shoulder and across: instead of pulling down, it is pulling across then down so maybe creating slightly different tensions. If I have to carry my purse for a little longer than normal, I sometimes reach a point where I simply can't stand it anymore and have to switch side. And no need to carry a huge load: my purse is not very big. But I only need to have too many coins (I am in Canada...) and I can tell the difference (so our homeless neighbours love me!).

However cute they sometimes make them, you are right that knapsacks aren't a good alternative to the pulling down unless you get one of those tech-bags for hiking - absolutely a big no for a city stroll!

Although I've known this for some time, I can't yet commit to holding my purse in my hands as I fear I will forget it when I have to put it down, besides, the security of carrying my purse across is obvious. So I tend to instead wear a jacquet with multiple pockets - ideally inside pockets - whenever I only need id cards, money and my phone with me. Not ideal but very freeing for my upper body! So my next step would indeed be to switch to a real (small) "handbag" and maybe get one of those mini wheel cart for groceries...I know: it's psychological so I am trying to prepare myself mentally :-)


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