We all love a bag that can do everything; look stylish, carry our phone, wallet, keys, sanitiser, lunch, laptop, water bottle, gym clothes, mints, spare hairbrush and hair ties – all our junk- AND not hurt our shoulders and back while carrying them around all day. But sometimes we forget about the last part and end up with a bag that is far too heavy, impractical and gives us that digging sensation into our shoulder. Whether it’s for the daily commute, running around for errands, or even a day trip or holiday, we should always consider what bag we are hauling around and if it is the factor that is playing a part in our neck, shoulder or back pain. Over time if we put a strain on the body with heavy, non-supportive bags, you can cause some pretty serious pain and even lead to chronic long term conditions.
How to tell if your bag is causing pain
Are you being dragged down?
Even though it is great to be prepared for everything that your day can throw at you (you never know if you might need a spare portable charger!), it does end up putting more stress on your shoulders and back. You can end up compensating for the amount of weight being carried on one side and start putting stress on different structures like your shoulders, upper and middle back, neck and even low back and hips.
The best way to manage this is to reduce the amount you are putting in your bag. You try to aim for your bag to not feel heavy at all. If you can notice the strain of carrying the bag then your muscles and joints can too!
Does your bag have enough support?
If you do need to take a lot of items with you, then it might be better to look into a backpack. More often than not, people come in with handbags or work totes that could hold enough stuff for a backpacker’s trip around Europe. So if you need to use your bag for multiple functions and fit a lot of things in there for work, the gym, or running around kids after school, then it might be a good idea to look into a more supportive bag. A backpack can spread the weight of the bag across both shoulders, and usually, have wider straps that can disperse the weight more evenly across your shoulders.
If you don’t like the idea of a backpack then find bags that have wide straps, good grips and some added padding to reduce strain on your muscles. Also, make sure to avoid bags with chain links or skinny straps that will dig into your shoulder. Style and fashion shouldn’t impact your ability to get through your busy day effectively and comfortably.
Are you feeling lopsided?
When you have a heavy bag on the same shoulder for long periods of time, it’ll cause the shoulder to begin to pull forward and down which stretches the muscles in the upper back and neck. This will eventually lead to muscles in the front of the shoulder getting tighter, and the muscles in the back getting weak which could result in more severe issues like thoracic outlet syndrome. To prevent this you can try to alternate sides throughout the day.
Waiting for the aches and pains to come to you?
Most people don’t address shoulder or back issues before they start getting pain. But instead of waiting for the pain to start, try to prevent it altogether, with regular shoulder and back strengthening. This could be done with a resistance band, free weights, bodyweight exercises, gym machines or even with sport. Stretching and using a spikey/massage ball is a great way of keeping on top of tightness and stiffness which can often be the first sign of the body compensating for heavy loads.
Remember that we at Berwick Family Osteopathy are here for all our patients and if you are noticing symptoms that you have questions about or are causing aches and pains, feel free to make an appointment at the clinic at (03) 9702 0094 or make a booking online. There’s no point in being a slave to style when your body is suffering as a response. No compliment is worth a lifetime of chronic back, shoulder, and neck pain.
If you are suffering from neck, shoulder or back pain and you are wondering if an Osteopath can help you, give us a call at Berwick Family Osteopathy and Spinal Clinic on (03) 9702 0094, or make an appointment online.
We can’t wait to see you in the clinic and help you with your health.
Blog written by Dr Amelia Sloan – Registered Osteopath.
Berwick Family Osteopathy & Spinal Clinic