Handbags are a necessary accessory, but studies have shown that many women suffer aches and pains from carrying heavy handbags over a prolonged period.
Handbags are where we keep the essentials of daily life - mobile phone, keys, wallet, makeup, laptop, umbrella, snacks, diapers - the list is endless! Unfortunately, most of us have too much in our bags causing much rummaging around, and unnecessary weight and strain on our shoulders, back and hips.
When we carry a bag on one shoulder, our centre of gravity shifts and the following occurs to maintain balance:
Neck, shoulders and arms
To prevent the bag from slipping off your shoulder, you need to shrug the shoulder supporting the bag strap up towards your ear. Over time, the overworked trapezius (large muscle extending over back and shoulders) becomes tense in the upper shoulder leading to a stiff neck and muscle spasms. In some cases, you could also develop a headache due to tense neck muscles. If you’re one of those who holds on to the bag straps with your hands tend, you may develop strained biceps due bending your elbow over an extended period.
How to resolve the pain
Stretch the upper trapezius for 20-30 seconds by pulling the head towards the opposite direction. Push the shoulder blades down and away from the ears for a deeper stretch.
Stretch the biceps by placing your palms on the wall and straightening your arms - hold for 20-30 seconds.
Lean against a wall or surface with a tennis ball between your shoulder blades. Apply gentle pressure for 30-60 seconds.
Back and hips
The deep intrinsic muscles supporting your spine can also be affected by an asymmetric load. This leads to imbalanced muscles at the hip and lower back due to compensation. One side of your hips and limbs will overcompensate to maintain balance causing an asymmetrical ‘scoliotic’ posture. This happens when you shift your hips from one side to the other, and one hip becomes higher than the other. Stiffness and soreness of the Quadratus Lumborum (QL) and gluteus muscles within the hip girdle is a symptom of this.
How to resolve the pain
Place a tennis ball under the lower back and glutes and apply gentle pressure for 30-60 seconds.
Stretch sore QL muscle by reaching over to the side and hold the position for 20-30 seconds.
How to avoid handbag strain
- Reduce weight and carry only what you really need
- Use a handbag with a wider strap so the the pressure is distributed on your shoulder
- Switch sides and carry your bag on both shoulders to balance out the load on the your muscles
- Carry a backpack instead so that the weight is equally distributed