Woman with really big bag hanging from her shoulder

10 Ways to Save Your Spine from Supersized Purses

Could your SuperSize Purse be giving you neck pain and musculoskeletal problems? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that great bag that carries everything is not good for your body. Big, heavy bags cause quite a few health issues.


Carrying a heavy handbag or purse, and hiking your shoulder up to keep it against your body, throws off your gait.

The way you naturally swing your arms and legs while you walk is altered by trying not to drop your bag. This asymmetric load on one shoulder causes the muscles in this area to become imbalanced. This changes your posture, often causing your dominant shoulder sit higher than your other shoulder.


When your shoulders are off balance, your hips may get thrown off as the body tries to compensate.

The muscles that often get stiff from heavy purses are the trapezius and levator scapula. Chronic muscle stiffness and spasm affect the curves of your spine. This may lead to arthritis. Chronic muscle tension can also lead to conditions like tension headaches, numbness and tingling in the arms, and forward head carriage.


Carry a Big Bag? Here's how to save your spine —


1. Reduce the load.

Dump everything in your bag on the countertop at least once a week to reduce the random stuff that piles up in there. How many tubes of lipstick do you really need to carry on a daily basis? How many receipts do you need in your wallet? Can you carry just one or two snacks rather than an entire week’s worth? You’ll be amazed how much weight can be unloaded from your bag if you do this just once.


2. Switch to a smaller bag.

It will be lighter when you’re forced to carry less. We all tend to fill our purses up, so make the space you can fill smaller.


3.Opt for wide straps.

Wide straps on a purse or backpack help to distribute the weight of the bag across a wider area. The part of the shoulder and neck where your strap lies is also where the nerves that travel down your arm pass. Compression of those nerves can lead to the carpal tunnel-like symptoms of numbness and tingling in the hands.


4. Choose bags with alternate strap options.

Having the option of a shoulder bag or a hands-free crossbody bag is a nice way to mix up fashion with function. Many shoulder and top handle bags come with a crossbody option.


5. Use an attachable strap.

I like a clutch just like any girl, but a crossbody bag gives me a hands-free option. This gives me an extra hand to hold onto my daughter and my ice-cream cone. Attachable straps can restore a handbag with a broken or missing strap, or you can convert a purse into a crossbody bag with a longer strap. The folks over at Mautto offer a wide variety of customizable options.


6. Find your body's sweet spot.

Remember Goldilocks trying to find the most comfortable fit? Be like Goldilocks, and find your best purse fit. Your bag shouldn’t be too high or too low. A shoulder bag should fit in the crook of your elbow. A cross-body bag should fit around the hip. Check out this handy fit guide.


7. Switch shoulders.

Switching shoulders periodically helps balance the load. If you’re spending the day walking around, try to switch sides every 20-30 minutes to reduce strain.


8. Watch your posture.

Many people walk with their head leaning forward, either texting or staring at the ground. Forward head posture and text neck are common conditions correlated with neck pain. Looking towards the horizon when you walk helps you see the beauty around you, look folks in the eye, and reduce neck strain.


9. Try a backpack.

Backpacks, having two straps, evenly distribute the weight of your bag. Having two straps reduces neck strain and pressure on those precious nerves.

Curious about backpack loads for kids? Read more on backpacks and kids' spinal health.


10. Get your exercise. 

Go for balanced, toned shoulders that can withstand the weight of your favorite tote. Regular exercise in the form of yoga, pilates, and weight training all will help.


Like all self-care for the spine, making a few lifestyle adjustments around your bag will do wonders. Keep it light, stay strong, and be conscious of how your bag is affecting your health. You'll have more energy and less pain if you do. 




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