A 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.
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?
Physiotherapy can help resolve these pains by:
- 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.
- 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!!