We’ve all heard a statement along these lines before; “I’m taking a break from wearing my purse, my shoulder is getting sore from all the weight.” Unfortunately, taking a break from wearing a heavy shoulder bag will not correct spinal misalignment. It will only reduce the immediate discomfort being felt. To correct the damage caused from wearing a heavy purse you need to have your spine adjusted by a chiropractor. After that, reducing the amount of weight you carry on a daily basis will minimize the chance of further injury.
Whether carrying a purse, backpack, or briefcase, unevenly distributed weight on the body creates an imbalance in the muscles being used to support the spine as well as in the spine itself. This can lead to many problems, including shooting pain from pinched nerves, tightness in the neck and back, and misalignment of the spine. If left untreated, these symptoms can become chronic sources of pain. Heavy bags can even cut off some blood circulation to the arm.
As a chiropractor, I recommend wearing a purse only when absolutely necessary. However, I know that this is unrealistic expectation. Because most women will never give up wearing a purse, I’ve listed out a few tips to reduce the stress on the neck and back caused by frequently carrying a purse.
Tip #1 – Alternate which shoulder you carry your purse on throughout the day
Switching carrying arm or shoulder every 5 to 10 minutes can drastically reduce the amount of constant stress on one side of the body. Mixing it up will give your body a chance to recuperate from the strain of carrying a heavy bag.
Tip #2 – Clean out your purse at least once per week
Organize your purse so you can easily find the items you use regularly. If you haven’t used an item in your purse in the last week then you likely don’t need to carry it everywhere with you. Leave it in your car, where you can easily get to it when you really need it.
Tip #3 – Downsize to a smaller purse
Now that you’ve cleaned out all of the items you seldom use, you don’t need as much space. Switch to a smaller purse and keep everything neat and organized. Who wants to dig through a big purse anyway? You now have a reason to go out and buy a new, smaller purse. You’re welcome.
Tip #4 – Exercise your back and shoulder muscles
Strengthening your back and shoulder muscles will help to support the extra weight from your purse. Whether you choose to work out at the gym or at home, taking 30 minutes 3 times a week to build muscle strength will go a long way towards decreasing back and neck pain.
Tip #5 – Stretch regularly to prevent muscle tightness
Because the purse you are lagging around all day has caused your muscles to contract in ways they weren’t designed to, you need to unlock those tight spots before they begin giving you pain. Taking 2 to 3 minutes to stretch a few times a day will help loosen up those shoulders and get your muscles back to their usual state.
You are now on your way to a healthier, pain free neck & back!
This post was written by Seattle chiropractor, Dr. Scott Mindel of Belltown Spine & Wellness.