Close your eyes. Pretend you’re watching your favorite TV show and a commercial comes on: A fashionably dressed woman runs down her stairs, about to head out the door for work. She grabs a huge handbag (the size of some people’s luggage) and stuffs her phone, iPad, iPod, lunch, bottled water, a sweater, and workout clothes into it.
Sounds like a gigantic purse, right? Yes, well, it is entirely possible and that’s the reality for many people. Now keep watching the commercial as the woman slings the bag over her shoulder with a bit of a grunt. Suddenly, the commercial shifts to an internal image of the woman’s spine. It’s off balance. Blood is rushing to the strained muscles. Her joints are compromised, and her posture is dramatically out of alignment. Ouch, she is in for it!
“What is this commercial advertising, you may ask? It could be just about anything because most women, teens, and even briefcase toting men are carrying far too much on their shoulders.
In a recent NY Times article, Amy Youner, a premier physical therapist in Manhattan, describes this exact scenario, “In the last few years, bags have become ever more voluminous, and as women have fallen sway to their chunky charms, they have filled them up with necessities. These days many women are as burdened as mail carriers.”
As a result, reports of shoulder soreness and stiff necks are on the rise while doctors, massage therapists, and chiropractors are tailoring treatments for the burgeoning ranks of the bag-obsessed.
“In the last year or so, I’ve been seeing the same kinds of issues with adult women that I’m used to seeing with kids who carry heavy backpacks on one shoulder,” said Karen Erickson, a chiropractor who has a private practice on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and also serves as a spokeswoman for the American Chiropractic Association. “They’re experiencing neck pain — not just while they’re carrying their purses, but all the time. A lot of women even get bad headaches.”
This is not good. But, what can be done? First, it is important to understand the ramifications of wearing heavy bags and the damage they can cause to the muscles in your back, neck, and shoulders. The main culprit is the weight and exacerbated by wearing a bag on one shoulder causing a dramatically uneven distribution of weight. The result is PAIN and suffering, specifically stiffness, numbness, achiness, tingling, and headaches. That being said, we still have a burning desire to haul tons of stuff around, and we remain a culture obsessed with appearances.
Thankfully there are solutions, and your good ‘ole friends here are MidSouth Pain Treatment Center have done lots of research for you. We found a fantastic website that focuses on everything ergonomic…ironically, its URL is http://www.ergonomics-info.com. We dug in a little deeper and found an entire write-up about purses, shoulders bags, backpacks, etc. We recommend you check it out. But we’ll make it easy for you by listing their recommendations below.
- “Backpacks are excellent ergonomic bags and are appropriate for people suffering from back or neck pain. Backpacks also have various pockets for you to be able to segregate and arrange your items accordingly and get the total weight distributed evenly.”
- “Sling backs have a teardrop structure that tend to take the weight of the back away from the neck and shoulder and evenly spreads out the weight on the back making them extremely comfortable to carry.”
- “Clutches are a perfect example for compact small ergonomic purses. They are stylish and chic and would fit in your palm and cause no strain what-so-ever to your back. Keep a number of them to befit the occasion and keep only the essentials you need for that time in them.”
- Additionally, if you absolutely must carry a “purse,” choose a small one with small handles so you aren’t even tempted to toss it over your shoulder. If it has a shoulder strap included, wear it across your body.
- And finally, if you insist on the big fashionable bag, pick one with lots of compartments so the weight is evenly distributed within the bag.
In closing, summer is coming to an end and the back-to-school/back-to-work season is upon us. It is a time we all channel our inner youth and get some new “stuff” for ourselves and our kiddos. So, when you reach for a spiffy new backpack for Junior, give yourself the right degree of consideration. Don’t add to the chill of changing seasons with cold packs and the occasional frozen bag of peas slapped on the neck or back. Daily aches and pains don’t need to be a part of your everyday life!
If you have an injury, ache, or pain that has persisted for more than three months, you could be suffering from chronic pain. Chronic pain is serious and if left untreated can lead to a life of unnecessary discomfort and considerable sacrifice. You don’t have to live with your pain.
The medical providers at MidSouth Pain Treatment Center are here to help. Through state-of-the-art treatment and therapies, we can return you to the life you love without the effects of chronic pain. We offer five convenient locations throughout the Mid-South and accept self-referrals. This means that you don’t need to be referred by your family doctor to make an appointment. And, we don’t require an MRI to get started.
Remember this blog and your friends at MidSouth Pain Treatment Center the next time you’re tempted to jam half your world into a bag. Prevention is usually the best therapy there is!