Heavy Purse Syndrome: What Is It and How Do I Prevent It?
The purse is a woman’s most common accessory. Most women are guilty of carrying a heavy and overloaded purse. They put their wallets, keys, phones, snacks, and various other things that we just might “need” in our bag and weigh them down. Overstuffed and heavy purses can lead to health problems that aren’t limited to aches and pains. Carrying a heavy purse especially one that you carry on the shoulder, forearm, or in your hand, forces you to compensate for the uneven weight. This compensation causes unnecessary strain and stress on the muscles, joints, and nerves. This may lead to various health issues including muscle spasms and aches, neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, and numbness or tingling in the arms and/or hands. This is a repetitive strain type of injury, as we perform this action over and over again.
Heavy purse syndrome can be harmful to your body, but it’s not inevitable. Follow these seven simple steps to reduce the effect of your purse on your body:
1. Consider the Contents
The easiest way to reduce weight in your handbag is to carefully consider what you are carrying with you. Can some of the contents stay at home, in the office, or in your car? Your phone might even have apps that can help you forgo of many of your purse’s contents like loyalty point cards, maps, notebooks, planners, magazines, even your whole wallet. Do you need to carry your whole makeup kit, or can you pair it down to just the essentials? Are you carrying extra keys that are rarely used? Are there old receipts in your purse? Cleaning out your handbag and removing duplicate items can go a long way to reducing the overall weight. Your handbag should never weigh more than 10% of your body weight. For 150 lb. woman this means a maximum of 15 lbs.
2. Choose Lightweight Materials
Materials like leather are naturally heavier. The starting weight of your purse is thus heavier, making it easier to have a purse that is heavier than the recommended 10% of your body weight. Consider lightweight materials like nylon, or fashionable vegan leather. This will make the starting weight lower and reduce the overall weight of your purse, helping you to stay under the recommended 10%.
3. Simplicity Over Embellishments
When choosing a purse, pick one without extra embellishments. Chains, links, tassels etc. may serve to make the purse look pretty but they can add a lot of unnecessary extra weight. A classic simple bag never goes out of style!
4. Thick Straps for Comfort
Thin straps or straps with chains are harder on your body. They place extra pressure on the nerves of the neck and shoulders and may increase your risk of developing pain. Choose a handbag with wide padded straps to reduce the effect.
5. The Size of Your Bag Matters
If you are prone to overpacking your purse, consider a smaller bag. This gives you less room to fill and may help with the overpacking problem. With a medium to large size purse, consider the number of pockets. Pockets help you organize the contents of your handbag and to distribute weight evenly throughout your bag. If you have a lot of things you need to carry, or heavier items such as a laptop, consider a backpack. Backpacks help distribute weight more evenly throughout the trunk and when worn properly on both shoulders don’t cause you to compensate for the weight.
6. Switch Sides Regularly
Whether you carry your purse in your hand, on one shoulder, or across your body be sure to switch sides regularly. This helps minimize the overuse of one side; balancing out the effects. A cross body strap on your handbag helps to distribute the weight through the torso. This puts less stress on the spine and arm. However, if it’s heavy it will still cause you to compensate. Never carry your purse hooked over the bend of your elbow. This can cause irritation to the muscles and nerves of the forearm.
7. Follow up with Your Healthcare Professional
If you find yourself experiencing pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, or any other symptoms, be sure to be evaluated by a health professional such as your chiropractor or massage therapist as soon as possible. Your chiropractor or massage therapist can help you deal with the injuries, get back on track, and give you tips on how to prevent further injuries from occurring.
Your handbag carries many important things. It shouldn’t be the cause of your pain. By considering contents, the structure of your purse, and how you carry it you can help reduce the chance of suffering from heavy purse syndrome.