It happened again today. A healthy looking 40 year old showed up at the office with complaints of severe neck pain and right arm numbness and tingling. Her MRI showed some mild disc degeneration but nothing that should really be causing the problems she was describing. She insisted that every time she walked for long periods, or had a busy day running errands, she would be miserable for hours afterwards. Then I saw her purse.
How much do you actually have to carry when you go out? Sure you might have some files and your lunch to take to work, but for most people that’s one trip from the parking lot to the office. If you carry large amounts of work for long distances, hopefully you have discovered rolling briefcases/file boxes.
Several years ago a study was done on how the heavy book bags that children had to carry, affected their spines. Afterwards “school copies” of books became available and bags with better weight distribution were made available. I have yet to see a study on women’s purses. It’s the women (maybe a few men, but mostly women) that feel they have to carry all their earthly belongings with them every time they leave the house. They keep adding to that bag (purse, pocketbook, or handbag) they carry, and do not once consider what it is doing to their neck and back.
If I handed you a 10 pound weight and asked you to carry it with you everywhere you go for the next month, you would think I was crazy and say “absolutely not. That would be stupid and hurt my neck/back”.
My patient’s purse weighed at least 15 lbs. No lie. When I asked her what was in it she said “just the necessary stuff”. I asked her to go home and take everything out of her purse that she has not needed in the last week. I also asked her to buy one of those neat little wallets that hold a cellphone, credit cards and keys. For most trips out of the house, that is all you need. So she didn’t feel she was going out completely without support, I asked her to take this little wallet out of her bag and take it with her, and just leave her purse in the car. Her necessary stuff will be close by, but she will not be carrying it everywhere she goes.
I have had at least five patients that have improved greatly by getting rid of their handbags. Think about it and then do a little trial on your own. You can also switch to knapsacks (worn as they were made to be worn) or a cross body bag to distribute necessary weight more evenly.
Tell a friend you see lugging a bag around. If it’s not money they are carrying, it’s not worth it.
- Brzęk A, Dworrak T, Strauss M, Sanchis-Gomar F, Sabbah I, Dworrak B, Leischik R. The weight of pupils' schoolbags in early school age and its influence on body posture. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2017 Mar 21;18(1):117. PubMed PMID: 28320364