Handbag Syndrome

KateKylieES1312_468x477A camera, mobile phone, make-up, wallet, laptop, umbrella, water bottle, laptop, a change of clothes, a bottle of wine, books, groceries … we’ve pulled all of these items out of our purse on different occasions. Big handbags are in fashion for a couple of years now, so inevitably the amount of content these bags carry grows That is the rise of heavier handbags and typically such a bag can weigh 3kg or more. And that’s not good, because overstuffed handbags not only lead to broken straps and misshapen purses, but also to back problems for those carrying them.

There is an increase in the cases of heavy handbags induced headaches & neck, shoulder and back pains. Though such syndrome affects mainly women, men do get such pains as there are rising trends of men who carry heavy bags (eg laptop bag).

Worse news! This spinal distress is exacerbated by high heels!

A heavy handbag, shoulder bag, or purse can injure the neck, back and shoulders. The neck has a natural curve that evenly distributes forces on the spine. Hence, when a person carries a heavy bag on one side over a long period of time, this natural curve starts to get distorted which can lead to chronic neck and shoulder pains, back pain, and even headaches. Left untreated, it can lead to more serious injuries such as herniated discs and accelerated degeneration of the cervical spine.

Are you suffering from Heavy Handbag Syndrome?

The reason why heavy purses cause stiffness in neck, back and shoulder is because they induce an uneven distribution of weight.Spine

While carrying a heavy purse on one shoulder the blood flow due to the weight of the purse gets unevenly distributed. The half that carries the purse is under constant duress and the muscles in that area get sensitized and may ultimately start aching. This overload on one half of the back causes strain on the spine and back too and cause pain and extreme discomfort. The pain may be in the form of stiffness, aching, numbness or just tingling sensations.

Another common problem is that one shoulder becomes slightly higher than the other. Some scenarios such as talking on mobile while carrying the heavy handbag, will worsens the problem, because in addition to balancing too much weight on one side, she is lifting the shoulder at the same time, straining the neck and shoulder ligaments and muscles.

Typically, handbag syndrome brings about neck, shoulder muscles and ligaments strain/ injuries, causing poor neck and shoulder postures. Left untreated, these can lead to more serious injuries such as herniated discs, accelerated degeneration of the spine and less commonly, traction injury of the brachial plexus, which symptoms are weakness and sensation changes (i.e. numbness over the shoulder and arm).

What do WE do?

So what are the alternatives to avoid getting caught in a similar situation?

  • Weight of the handbags/ shoulder bags/ laptop bags should not weigh more than 10-15 percent of your body weight.
  • Check by feeling the bag on our shoulder. When you sling the bag on your shoulder, and it feels uncomfortable, especially when the weight pulling shoulder down, it is time to downsize or reduce the contents in your bag.
  •  Lighter bags (contents included) are recommended, not more than 2-3 kg as we tend to carry such bags frequently and over a extended period of time (travelling to work and back home, shopping) which can change the biomechanics of the neck , back and shoulders and lead to pain and dysfunction.
  • Get into the habit of switching sides when we are carrying our bag.

Still have Pain?

3444735038_shoulder_pain_xlargePhysiotherapy can help resolve these pains by:

  1. Analyzing the structure of the your body, such as how does your head sits on your shoulders or how your posture could have brought about the biomechanical changes in your neck and shoulders causing pains.
  2. Apply various strategies in the restoration of spinal and shoulder girdle mobility and stability that results in a reduction in the patient’s pain and spasm. Strategies include manual techniques, such as joint mobilization and manipulation, deep tissue massage, muscle energy technique and neck and shoulder girdle stabilization exercises.

However, treatment is always more effective if the problem is detected and treated early as chronic problems (more than 3 months) have poorer treatment results. Therefore, if the pain does not resolve within 3 days and seems to get worse, it is time to make an appointment with your physiotherapist.

We think our vow to take better care of our back and the return of the chain strap is serendipitous. If you’re guilty of using your handbag as luggage, what items do you think you’ll take out?

Next Week! Visit Us to know more about Ergonomic Handbags!!


Ergonomics in Pregnancy

With many women working today, it is important to understand how pregnancy can affect workplace safety.
Pregnancy alters the body’s shape & thus, the interaction with the worksite. The abdomen becomes increasingly larger, causing progressive postural problems, backache, & impairment of dexterity, agility, coordination & balance. Hormonal changes affect the ligaments, increasing the likelihood of injury. Joints in the spine become less stable & show signs of separation & movement to accommodate the growing fetus. 
Following simple steps to adjust your computer workstation that suit your body and its changing needs in your pregnancy will greatly improve the way you feel at the end of the day.

Ergonomic concerns that a pregnant woman experience include:
Most employers immediately consider the harmful effects of chemicals in the workplace when first notified of a pregnancy.
Less obvious, yet equally important to the pregnant employee’s health & well-being, are ergonomic hazards such as awkward postures, heavy lifting, limited rest periods & repetitive force. Back pain & Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) are relatively common side effects of pregnancy as well, & both may be aggravated by job tasks.
As the pregnant worker’s body changes shape, new hazards related to reach, balance, lifting and repetitive motion may develop. Employers must be aware of these changes in order to continue to provide a safe, comfortable workplace.

  • Sustained & repeated postures
  • Pressure on hard surfaces while typing
  • Improper mouse operations
  • Forward head
  • Leaning forward away from the back of the chair
  • Bending sideways to use alternate work space
  • Sliding the chair across the work surface
  • Awkwardness, fatigue & tendency to lose balance become critical when quick reaction time or work on elevated surfaces is required. For example, work on platforms or the use of step stools may now present a greater hazard. 
  • Standing for long.

Tips for pregnant working women:
While application of sound ergonomic principles benefits all workers, the following actions can be considered when modifying a pregnant worker’s job:

  • Tasks should be arranged to minimize twisting the body and stress on ligaments. For instance, a document holder placed next to the monitor reduces turning of the head and neck, protecting against straining these muscles and ligaments.
  • Sitting can be more difficult than usual, as immobility can lead to pain. This is especially a problem with the added back strain pregnancy causes. Moving around during the work day is therefore critical. Standing up for quick breaks or at least switching positions can help avoid the worst of these problems.
  • Limit standing time to less than three hours a day.
  • Use only adjustable ergonomic chairs. Use of a lumbar cushion is particularly useful during the third trimester.
  • Adjust the height of the work surface so that you can minimize the reaching distance. Women late in pregnancy may prefer a considerable lower table height than common guideline heights.
  • Modify the height of the monitor and keyboard to reduce the risk of CTS. As your abdomen gets larger, you should adjust the desk according to it.
  • Install foot rests (for seated and standing workers) so that one foot can be alternately raised.
  • Lift only items less than 10 pounds/5 kgs if it is necessary, to keep your spine safe.
  • Adjust work hours (e.g., flexible scheduling, day shift rather than night). Modify break schedule (e.g., shorter, more frequent breaks).

Pregnant workers require extra attention with respect to potential ergonomic hazards that are either created or exacerbated by pregnancy. Appropriate accommodations can prevent injuries, enhance the employee’s comfort, and help her better handle the stress of work combined with the physical changes related to pregnancy.

Also Read: Benefits of Exercising in PregnancyComfort in LabourBreathing in Labour & Workstation Ergonomics

Kitchen Ergonomics


This is you, making dinner.

The kitchen is typically the most used room in any house. And an efficient kitchen is typically a key point in having a happy life. If you do not believe me, try living with a poorly laid out kitchen and watch your quality of life plummet.

How to make Your Kitchen Efficient?

Kitchen Work Triangle: The 3 points of the kitchen work triangle are: Refrigerator, Sink & Stove. The sink, is located either adjacent to or across from the cooking surface & refrigerator.

Counter Design & Layout:

  • Make sure that your kitchen includes a working counter near the stove for dishes waiting to be cooked or those fresh out of the oven.
  • Provide for counter space close to the sink.
  • Proper counter height reduces excessive forward bending & shoulder elevation. For most activities, the work surface should be slightly below elbow height. Work requiring force, such as kneading bread, rolling dough, or cutting bones, should be done on a surface that is below elbow height.


  • A cushioned floor surface such as cork or linoleum is best, and it minimizes breakage when things are dropped.
  • If the floor is hard, such as tile, use anti-fatigue mats or cushioned rugs.

Lighting: Every work surface should be well illuminated.

  • Minimize reaching by organizing your kitchen so that most cooking processes can be completed while keeping your elbows close to your body.
  • Place most commonly used tools within easy reach.
  • Assemble all ingredients and utensils needed before cooking near the work center, similar to preparing a lab for an experiment.
  • Hang pots and pans on racks on walls. Use accessories such as corner shelves or racks which can be hung on rods. Another economical way is to use ‘S’ hooks to hang pans & other utensils.
  • Use a step stool to avoid reaching above shoulder height.

  • For floor-level storage space, opt for drawers rather than cupboards. This way, you won’t need to bend over to look for whatever is stuck at the back of a cupboard. Whatever drawer units you select, go for the ones with self-closing glides.
  • Opt for “Flip” Over Cabinets as the door flips up, rather than to the side, avoiding twisting & double maneuvers.
  • Store frequently used accessories in the top drawers just beneath the counter or on the bottom shelf of the cupboards just above the counter. The remaining accessories can then be stored based on how often they’re used, with those used least often on the highest or lowest levels.
  • Make sure the range hood is at least 60 centimetres high so that you won’t bump your head.
Electrical Outlets: You can run a channel of outlets below your upper cabinets. This way anytime you need to plug something in, you just reach up and plug it in, from wherever you are standing — no need to lug appliances around.

Working in your Kitchen:

Consider keeping items at waist level or maximum till shoulder height to avoid excessive bending, stooping or reaching. 
  • It is more comfortable to sit to perform some tasks than to spend hours standing in the kitchen. W have observed that when most people sit on a stool, they sit balanced, & practice better posture.
  • Washing Dishes: There are three things you can do. First, renovate your kitchen and make the sink higher. Two, wash up in a bowl on top of the platform, or three, stand with your feet well apart on a non-slip mat, so you become shorter. 
  • When accessing storage below the platform, bend down using your knees instead of the back.
  • If you must use a step stool, get one with a bar to hold on to. Never use a chair as a step stool.


  • If you’re buying a standard refrigerator, designs with the freezer on the bottom are best, with most commonly used foods on the top shelf for easy access.
  • Think carefully about whether or not to buy a dishwasher. Packing and unpacking them can cause back pain too.

The kitchen is full of potential sources of strains, repetitive motion, force, and awkward posture, especially if you are a “non-standard” sized person or if you have already overworked certain body parts during the day at work. By coupling ergonomically designed appliances and fixtures with careful planning, working in your kitchen can become a pleasure.

If you have any tips which have helped in the kitchen, we would love to hear them!