You carry your life in your bag. And your body hates you for it. Carrying a heavy purse, particularly on one side of the body, can cause aches, pains and even strains.
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“If you don’t carry your handbag properly it adds extra weight to your shoulder and back,” said physical therapist Jaime Quinn, the regional clinical director at Professional Physical Therapy. “It’s similar to sitting at a desk all day. You’re in one position for a long period of time and you’re putting abnormal strains on muscles that can cause tendonitis, inflammation and muscle spasms.”
Your bag need not be such a pain in that back. To help you avoid a trip to her office, Quinn shared tips on how to properly carry a purse.
Most people carry their purses on their dominant side, typically the right. That enlarges and stiffens that side’s trapezius muscles, which extend over the back of the neck and shoulder and move the head and shoulder blade. Quinn recommended switching shoulders every three to five blocks if walking in the city. Carrying a backpack can also help. “It distributes the weight more evenly and prevents your body from straining towards one side.” Just make sure to use both straps. For handbags, look for a strap that is at least three inches wide to “reduce the strain on one part of the shoulder.”
Watch the Weight
Clean out your purse —Quinn advised keeping your bag’s weight to less than 10 percent of your body weight. If carrying a backpack, be sure to evenly distribute the contents in the front and back.
Swinging a bag, rather than keeping it close, can alter gait mechanics. “It pulls away from your center of mass and your body has to accommodate for that and compensate, which throws off your normal gait and puts excessive strain on the body.”
Stretch It Out
If you’re feeling stiffness, a few simple exercises can help provide relief and strengthen trouble spots. Stretch upper trapezius muscles by pulling your head forward with your chin towards your chest. Hold for 15 seconds and then repeat on the sides. Quinn has patients work on a seated row or lat pulldown machine to strengthen upper back muscles.