You grab it on your way out the door, often without thinking about it. It follows you on your commute. Sometimes it even joins you at happy hour. And, for many women, it's almost always around anywhere when you go.
It's your purse, briefcase, or shoulder bag.
Seems innocuous enough. Or is it? Your bag could be contributing to aches and imbalances in your body.
HOW DOES MY BRIEFCASE, PURSE, OR SHOULDER BAG NEGATIVELY AFFECT MY HEALTH? Carrying a load—in this case, your bag—for an extended, long-term period of time on one side of your body places uneven stress on your spine and muscles, particularly your shoulder, back, and neck muscles. Often times, to counter-balance the weight, you lean to one side; this is exacerbated the heavier your bag is.
In fact, based on a study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, carrying an asymmetrical load on your body can negatively impact your posture and gait. This can lead to muscle imbalances, muscle pain, pinched nerves, neck pain, shoulder pain, and back pain due. So many areas can be affected because the body is one kinetic chain, so an aggravation or issue in one spot can present itself with issues or symptoms in another.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO? For starters, try and lighten the weight of your bag. Get rid of anything you don't need for that day or outing. Aim for your bag's weight to be no more than 10% of your body weight.
If you can, use a backpack, as this will evenly distribute the weight on both sides of your body. But if you want or need to stick with a purse, briefcase, or shoulder bag, then get one with a well-padded strap. Also, make sure it stays close to your body--the farther away it is, the more stress you put on your shoulders, back, and neck since the weight is farther from your center of gravity.
Alternate carrying your bag between your left and right side. This lets each side rest and helps prevent imbalances.
Lastly, strength-trains your shoulders, back, and core. The stronger those are, the easier it will be to maintain proper posture when carrying your bag.