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!!


Scoliosis-Rehabilitation: Exercise Therapy

Scoliosis Rehabilitation Contd….

Improved technology & the ability to assess muscle function have changed the Scoliosis picture. We now know that there is asymmetry in muscle function for everyone with scoliosis. More specifically, there is an uneven strength in trunk rotation.

Exercise is known to increase strength, flexibility & endurance in the apparently healthy populations. Your scoliosis may pose a challenge to you in finding exercise that helps without hurting. Exercise is an important part in maintaining & building muscle strength. The exercise benefits you receive will only be as good as the specific way your program addresses your individual needs.

  • Physical Therapy
  • Yoga: Yoga exercises also can restore mobility to the spine & provide pain relief. It reduces the effects of scoliosis by conditioning your legs, training breath, correcting alignment & strengthening the muscles that have been weakened in scoliosis.
  • Pilates
  • Aerobic Exercise: Walking, Swimming  (30 minutes)
  • Water exercise classes or aqua jogging
  • Deep breathing exercises

Physical Therapy

Teaching Alignment

Many scoliosis patients don’t understand what good posture & alignment feel like. Exercises that help them understand proper alignment are very useful. When the problem is a thoracic curve issue, scoliosis patients can reach upward and diagonally while sitting tall & slightly forward. This gives them a kinesthetic sense of what a straight spine feels like.




Pelvic Tilt



Back Extension



Side Bend Exercise



Depending on what side you bend toward.

Chair Back Exercise



Back Strengthening



Back Strengthening



Back Extension




Bent Over Raise



Upper Back

Oblique Muscle Strengthening




Abdominal Holds






Trunk Rotations

Strength & Stretch:

Muscles tend to be weaker on the sides corresponding to concavity — where the spine bends away from the body’s mid-line. Rotating the trunk side-to-side from the waist can simultaneously strengthen and stretch the muscles that support the spine.

Ball Exercises

Side Stretch


Tight Trunk Muscles on side of curve

Cat Stretch



Stretch Up Reach Down


Stabilize the curvature in your back, lengthen the surrounding muscles and tendons & improve the range of motion in your back


  • Push-ups with a tilted pelvis are a good exercise for scoliosis patients with a brace.
  • Try pushing your side toward the floor. Lie on one side with a pillow under your ribs and your top arm and leg straight and your bottom arm and leg bent. Tilt your pelvis and attempt to push your side toward the floor.
  • The once-a-day standing pelvic tilt is done with relaxed knees. The patient pulls in his abdomen and tilts his pelvis and then attempts to walk while holding the tilt.
  • Correcting thoracic lordosis and rib hump involves doing a standing pelvic tilt & then taking a deep breath while spreading your ribs & pressing the chest wall backward.
  • Active curve correction also involves a standing pelvic tilt. Shift your body away from the rib pad in the brace, then away from the lumbar pad. Finally, attempt to shift away from both pads at the same time and stretch upward.

“With scoliosis, what feels aligned is often misaligned, & what feels misaligned is often balanced alignment”…so it is crucial & imperative for Scoliosis patients to exercise.

WARNING: If pain is more than mild and lasts more than 15 minutes during exercise, stop exercising and contact your doctor.

We have tried to add as many exercises as possible. If there are any we have missed, please write to us in our comments section. Thanks!

Scoliosis- Rehabilitation

Because the skeletons of children & young adults grow quickly, there is a reasonable chance that if a curve is detected, the degree of the spinal curve may worsen as the spine continues to grow. In those cases, scoliosis treatment is advisable.


Non-surgical Rehabilitation


  • Two braces used most often for this condition are the Milwaukee brace & the Boston brace.
  • Studies show that bracing controls the curve and prevents progression. In most cases, bracing does not correct the curve; it just keeps it from getting worse.
  • While in your brace, you won’t be able to participate in sports that require flexibility such as gymnastics or tumbling. Physical contact sports such as football, hockey, or soccer are also prohibited while wearing the brace
  • Bracing is generally used for at least two years or until there is no sign of further change. Your surgeon will follow up at regular intervals. Follow-up visits & repeated x-rays are needed more often for the child who has a rapidly progressing curve or who is in a growth spurt.
  • Non-surgical patients are advised to exercise regularly & to exercise in their brace if they are using one.

Unfortunately, some curves do not respond to bracing. Cervico-thoracic curves (from the middle of the back up into the neck) & curves greater than 40 degrees tend not to respond well to bracing. Also, older patients who are closer to skeletal maturity may not respond to bracing.


Surgical Rehabilitation
If bracing doesn’t stop the progression of scoliosis, then surgery may be needed.
Scoliosis surgery usually involves spinal instrumentation (i.e. rods, screws) & fusion (bone graft), to stop curve progression. Surgery does not cure scoliosis, but helps to correct and manage curve progression to avoid further deformity.

After Surgery:
Post-operative patients are usually discharged from hospital within five to seven days. They are able to progress quickly, returning to routine daily activities, including returning to school. Your surgeon will discuss your activity restrictions.

The primary goal of treatment is to stabilize the lateral curvature in the back, strengthen the muscles that support the back, improve posture, lung function, flexibility and movement in the back. Speak with your doctor before starting an exercise program for scoliosis.

Exercising in Ankylosing Spondylitis

Treatment for ankylosing spondylitis is what many often enquire about. People ask for treatment that completely cures ankylosing spondylitis disorder. Well, there is no known curative treatment for ankylosing spondylitis. However, there are different techniques & methods that reduce the effects or intensity of ankylosing spondylitis considerably.
Understanding ankylosing spondylitis, is very important so that you can opt for the best suited treatment for it. Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory arthritis that mainly affects spinal cord & sacroiliac joints, causing fusion of the spine- Bamboo Spine. It is of type autoimmune spondyloarthropathy. There may be involvement of other organs such as kidneys, lungs, eyes and heart. Hence, when your diagnosis is ankylosing spondylitis, you should immediately seek the treatment.

Treatment for ankylosing spondylitis includes various options such as medications, exercise & physiotherapy.
Goal of Treatment: Relieve pain, manage symptoms & prevent further progress of the disease.
  • Various types of movements of back & neck
  • Deep breathing for expansion of lungs
  • Stretching exercises for joint mobility
  • Guidelines- Maintaining erect posture is also very important to reduce spinal scoilotic curvature. Slipping on firm surface & avoid use of pillow while sleeping
  • Yoga can provide a relief from pain, stiffness, improve breathing & improve the range of mobility.
  • Yoga also helps to reduce stress and maintain the energy of patients
  • Asanas: (positions in Yoga) such as Vajra Asana, Dhanura Asana, Makara Asana, Bhujanga Asana, Ardha Matsyendrasana & Neti kriya help to remove rigidity, improve flexibility of joints & also correct bad posture. Pranayama is helpful for muscle relaxation as well as to improve the movements of ribs & changes in pressure within abdomen & chest
  • Before practicing Yoga session, a person should perform stretching to prevent sprains, muscle strains or further injuries
  • Build flexibility, increase strength, endurance, & coordination in legs, abdominals, arms & back.
  • Help with maintaining the  natural curves of the body
  • Create a neutral position for each joint that is close to the optimal alignment of the head, shoulders, thorax, spine & pelvis which ensures that all sections of the body are in their ideal place
However, high-impact exercises such as jogging & sports are jarring to your frame and are generally not recommended. Instead, engage in Tai chi, Swimming because it involves all muscles & joints in a low-impact, buoyant environment. Cycling can also help restore lost movement.
Option of surgery is also viable, in case of severe ankylosing spondylitis condition. Joint replacement surgery, especially of hip and knees is opted for reducing further development of ankylosing spondylitis.
Exercise, even in small five to 10 minute doses, can improve posture & mobility. According to the Spondylitis Association of America, most people say that their condition improves after exercise. However, first consult a rheumatologist or physical therapist before you begin, because movements that may be beneficial under normal conditions may actually harm those with AS.
Time Frame
Convenience and consistency are the most important parts of your routine. If you feel stiff in the morning, then you may try to loosen up early & then exercise in the midday or evening. If necessary, you can split your exercises throughout the day. For example, you can first do exercises while lying down, and then later in the day you can work on neck stretches or deep breathing.
Much relief can be gained in ankylosing spondylitis by following an exercise regime consistently.
DISCLAIMER: Please consult your medical professional before beginning exercises.

Backpack Safety

As the twig is bent, so grows the tree”

Posture in which the natural curves of the spine are maintained is considered good posture. Every single movement, from sitting at our desks, driving a vehicle, standing for long hours to even how we sleep-affects our back.

There is a widely held belief that repeated carrying of backpacks places additional stress on rapidly growing structures in children making them more prone to postural changes.

The highest rate of growth for school children occurs during puberty, 10-12yrs for girls & 13-15yrs for boys. External forces such as backpacks, influences growth & maintenance of body alignment, making adolescents more susceptible to injury compared to adults.

Before we discuss Ergonomics to carry backpacks, it’s important to understand how bad posture is produced due to backpacks. When a backpack is worn, the spine bends forwards, causing the entire body slant forwards, increasing the chances of falling. Now to prevent falling, the back muscles overwork & fatigue. Fatigue further pronounces this bad posture, increasing the chances of injury.

What kind of backpack is the right one?
  • When you go shopping for a backpack, carry along all the articles you plan to carry in the backpack. Select an appropriate sized backpack (not larger than your torso) as it can lead to a more & uneven load.
  • Select a light-weight, multi-compartmentalized backpack.
  • It should have adjustable wide padded contoured straps along with chest & waist straps to place the backpack closer to your spine & engage larger muscle groups to take the load.
  • This avoids overworking & fatigue.
  • The back of the backpack should be well padded & contoured to fit against the alignment of your spine.
  • Low back curve in the backpack should fit snugly against your low back curve.
  • The inside compartment should have elastics compression straps to hold large items in place.

How do I wear a backpack?
  • Bend your knees while picking up the backpack to check its weight.
  • Put on one strap at a time.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so that the backpack fits snugly against your spine. Use the Chest & Waist straps.

Always Remember…
  • Do not twist or swing the backpack while wearing it.
  • Do not wear only on one shoulder.
  • Do not bend your waist while wearing or lifting a heavy backpack.

The Ergonomics discussed in this article apply not only to children but also to adults.