Should You Bag the Handbag?

With every change in weather there’s also a renewal in fashion – new prints, new styles and new handbags. However, before you commit to a new bag it’s wise to take into consideration exactly how that bag can affect your health. Commonly, your neck and shoulders take the brunt of the pressure from a heavy bag, but there are other pains that may result as well.

Three Common Problem Areas and How to Combat the Pain
Neck and shoulder pain: Handbags rest on your upper trapezius and supraspinatus muscles. These muscle groups are sensitive, especially the upper trapezius because it connects through the neck and into the head which can cause migraines, headaches and neck pain. The supraspinatus is a rotator cuff muscle which can refer pain through the shoulder into the lateral arm if there is irritation or tendinitis due to overuse – or a heavy handbag!
The Fix: Perform shoulder rows and shoulder extensions.
Elbow pain: Tendinitis is common for women who hold their bags in their elbows – so for those who love a tote, opt to hold it on your shoulder over your elbow to avoid injury.
The Fix: Perform gentle elbow flexor and elbow extensor stretching, as well as wrist eccentric extension exercises.
Back pain: The side on which you wear your bag most often will tend to tighten and shorten the affected muscles, especially the quadratus lumborum, multifidi and the erector spinae.
The Fix: Stretch your lower back by performing hamstring stretches, trunk rotations and single knee to chest movements.

The common muscle aches described above, which can result from a heavy handbag, or just simply carrying your bag inappropriately, are often dismissed. However, if the pain doesn’t retire even after stretching and exercising the affected muscles, there are simple changes you can make to ensure your handbag doesn’t continue to become a pain.

Simple Changes to Ease and Eliminate the Pain
Lighten your load: Your handbag should weigh no more than 10 percent of your body weight. If you must carry multiple items, try using different bags to help evenly distribute the weight amongst the bags. Also, check the weight of the actual bag prior to purchase. Avoid bags that are heavy before you add items into it.
Switch shoulders: Try to alternate the side you carry your bag on every few blocks.
Switch your bag: Wearing a backpack or cross body bag can help evenly distribute the weight among both your shoulders which helps prevent extra stress on one shoulder or the other. When wearing a backpack, it should be at your rib cage, any lower will cause low back pain. A cross body bag allows the trunk of your body to carry more of the load instead of your lower back muscles.
Wear the proper shoes for support: Wear shoes that provide support to your back. Your natural gait becomes thrown off when you are carrying your bag on one side because it decreases your arm swing. The proper shoes helps normalize your gait.
Thicker straps go a long way: Try a bag with thicker straps. This helps evenly distribute the weight over the shoulder, whereas thinner straps cut into shoulder muscles and can cause pain.
If none of the above works to ease your handbag strains and pains, there are general muscle care techniques that may help soothe, such as using heat to relieve tight muscles and using ice for sore and painful muscle aches. If pain begins radiating into your arms or legs, it’s important to note that nerves may be involved. If the pain persists for more than a few days, you should consult a physician or physical therapist. After all, beauty should not be pain!

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