Health Topics

The Big Bag Battle

How to Prevent Aches & Pains Associated with Heavy Bags
By DMG Physical & Occupational Therapy

In the battle to keep up with our increasingly busy lives, many of us tote around a bag of some sort to keep organized. The busier we get, the bigger and more over-stuffed our bags tend to be. Whether you’re a student weighed down by a backpack, a working professional with a laptop bag or briefcase or a mom toting a filled-to-the brim purse, it is important to understand how our bags can affect our health.

Pain or stiffness in the neck, shoulders and upper back are common side effects of carrying a heavy bag and are caused by the constant pressure applied to the muscles, soft tissue and nerves in your shoulders. Chronic heavy bag use may also lead to muscle strain or joint pain. Prolonged neck and back pain can then turn into tension headaches if not addressed. Other issues may include misalignment of your shoulders. It is not uncommon for one shoulder to become slightly higher than the other over time due to supporting more weight on one side. The good news is that the discomfort is usually temporary. Long-term back pain typically won’t occur unless you are carrying 50 pounds or more.

1. Keep these tips in mind the next time you are about to head out the door toting a bag:

2. A bag should weigh no more than 10% of your body weight

3. Keep the bag toward the center of your body with the strap resting closely to your neck

4. When possible, use messenger style bags which are worn across your shoulder and help to distribute weight more evenly across your body

5. Switch the arm used to carry the bag or purse frequently to avoid straining one side

6. Use the bag’s pockets and compartments to help spread out contents and weight

7. Select a bag with wider straps, the more narrow the strap, the more concentrated the weight is in a particular area

8. Clean out your bag or purse at least once a month to remove any items that are no longer needed

9. Pack travel sized lotions, hand sanitizer and other personal items to reduce weight

10. Use different bags for different occasions for variety and to reduce weight and size whenever possible

While it may be difficult to avoid carrying a heavy bag altogether due to work or school, it is important to take steps to minimize the impact it has on your body. By incorporating some of these simple steps, you may be able to keep shoulder and back pain at bay. For additional information on how to manage acute or chronic aches and pains, schedule an appointment with one of our experienced physical therapists by calling 630-967-2000.

*A physician referral is required to receive physical therapy/treatment

Learn more about:
Physical & Occupational Therapy
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