What happens when you carry a heavy purse?

  • Your muscles are off balance because all the weight from your purse is on one shoulder. By carrying an asymmetric load your posture is thrown off. This can cause muscles in the shoulder you keep your purse on to become bigger. It can cause asymmetry in posture, where one shoulder is higher than the other. One shoulder is forced to be more developed than the muscles on the other side. This can also cause muscles in your spine to compensate for the weight, causing the opposite side of the spine to go into spasm. This can affect the lower back and the sacrum, the bone at the base of the lower spine. When the load is asymmetric, then everything below the shoulder will have to work more.
  • Muscles can become stiff. The trapezius muscle sits on top of your shoulders, it can spasm and tighten, as well as the muscles that go from shoulder to the base of the neck. It causes stiffness in the upper back, shoulder, and neck area. When the neck is forced to carry heavy weight for a long period of time, sometimes people develop arthritis in their neck and lower neck. The muscles that help to carry the purse are delicate and assist with turning the head, that action can become painful.
  • Your gait, or the way your arms and legs swing when you walk naturally, can be thrown off by carrying weight on one shoulder. Your body is no longer balanced, the side the purse is on makes it so the arm on that side can’t swing properly, and the opposite ram swings more.
  • Tension headaches can develop from muscles being forced to do the heavy lifting. When muscles in the shoulder and neck spasm, it can cause pain in the back of the skull that radiates to the front.

What can be done to fix this damage?

  • Don’t carry more than ten percent of your body weight. With a purse, it’s recommended not to carry more than five percent because the purse may be heavy and the weight of the purse needs to be taken into account.
  • Don’t look down! Texting, or looking down while carrying a purse will cause the curve of our neck to get flat.
  • Bags with wider straps distribute the weight of the bag over a wider area, protecting structures in the shoulder where nerves are from the neck into the arm.
  • Bags that have alternative strap options, like handles, and long straps so it can be worn cross-body to distribute weight better and gives shoulders a periodic break.
  • Switch sides. When you’re walking, switch your purse to the opposite shoulder every one or two blocks so you are balancing how your body carries the weight and so muscles develop equally.
  • Choose a bag that is right for your body. A purse that is too short or high up will affect how your arm can swing. A purse that is too long affects the way your hips swing when you walk. You want to swing hips and shoulders without the bag bumping them.
  • High heels and heavy purses can be a dangerous combination. Heels cause your pelvis to tilt forward which can cause back pain. Add in a purse and you have more of a chance of causing pain and injury.
  • Switching to a backpack means you’re carrying weight on two shoulders instead of one, making it easier to bear the burden. The backpack shouldn’t hang more than four inches below the waist, which can cause you to lean forward to compensate, which can strain your muscles.
  • Exercise, stretch, do yoga, light weights. Forms of exercise help ensure that your shoulders are equally toned and strong. Walking without a bag now and then helps to restore your natural gait.
  • Switch purse sizes. Large purses are easier to fill up with unnecessary things that weigh it down. Consider switching to a smaller purse.
  • Consider your health. Handbags may be a way for you to have a certain look or make a certain statement but consider what’s best for your overall health.

Give Cross Valley Chiropractic a call at 570-822-4848 for a consultation, or to learn how Chiropractic care can help with back and neck pain.