Have you ever taken a deep breath before lunging your purse on your shoulders? Do you feel your body slant to one side more than another when you’re carrying your giant bag around? Or how about that lingering back pain you feel after you’ve removed your heavy handbag after a long day. You know the one that radiates to your neck? Well, if you know exactly what those things feel like, then we may have a problem. Yes, I’m also including myself in this predicament. I think it might be time we rethink our handbag choices.
Carrying heavy handbags seems to be harming our bodies, mainly our backs, all for the sake of fashion and convenience. This is a problem that is actually affecting many people. In a recent study, the American Chiropractic Association reported that 50 percent of working Americans complain about back pain at some point in their lives. And here we are, feeding into this issue.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved carrying around a handbag. My grandmother figure in Miami always told me that a woman was incomplete without her purse. So, to please her and get my favorite meals cooked (everyone else ate her scary stews while I ate arepas), I learned to make purses a part of me. Of course, I grew up and understood that this was an antiquated way of thinking, but I can still appreciate handbags. But my appreciation of handbags have left me to make some odd decisions on what I put inside of them. Recently, I have found myself filling my bag with a variety of things including my laptop, flats, socks, a makeup bag, inexplicable amount of pens, notepads, female products, baby wipes, and a half-eaten muffin. I can see how my back health would be in jeopardy.
I’m not the only one carrying a portion of their lives on a handbag. Many people actually do this. This has become increasingly popular in recent years and this can be due to the fact that there are more professional women in the business world. We feel like we need our essentials, but I guess we sometimes confuse this with taking our closet for a ride.
The reason why schlepping around giant bags around may be detrimental is because it starts messing with the components of our backs. Before I continue, I need you to understand something. When experts are warning us about the negative effects large handbags have on us, they’re not talking just about one body part, they are talking about the damage we are causing our spinal cord, shoulders, trapezius, neck, and head.
The issue is bigger than our bags and that’s not good.
Let’s talk about gait. Gait simply refers to the normal form of walking in accordance to someone’s capabilities. This also deals with the regular swing of your arms. If you’re like me, you’ve seldom paid mind to your gait, up until you started reading this. However, I’ve just become hyper aware of my gait and how uneven it is when I have a heavy purse hanging on one of my shoulders. I realize that the weight makes me grab this extra organ/accessory with one hand to allow me to find proper balance. People, this is not normal. If throwing your bag over your shoulder alters your gait, then you can be sure that you’re mistreating your body.
Once you’ve interfered with your gait (especially if this is the norm for you), then the rest of the complications follow. Having an irregular gait means that your spinal cord is trying to compensate for your awkward posture. As per HuffPost, Dr. Robert A. Hayden, a chiropractor and founder of The Iris City Chiropractic Center of Atlanta, has said that this asymmetric load also causes muscles in your spine to compensate for the weight, which can cause the opposite side of the spine to go into spasm. The effect of this is muscle stiffening, which can radiate all the way down to your lower back. Ouch. In the long run, you might also develop “military neck” after enduring the stiffening. Military neck is when your the posterior part of your neck curves into a “C” shape at all times. This can be the cause for frequent headaches, due an overstrained neck as well as unbearable pain all through your shoulders and upper back.
Fret not! There are things we can do in order to avoid these health difficulties.
First things first, try replacing your giant bags for smaller ones. I know this sounds like a loaded task, but you’ve got to think about keeping yourself healthy. You don’t want chronic back pain creeping up to you when you get older, do you? However, if you’re like me and refuse to give up large bags (why am I like this?), just empty them out. I have this one vegan-leather handbag that I absolutely adore and will not stop using. It’s outrageously large, but it doesn’t weigh me down anymore. I’ve condensed the things I put inside my purse with only three to four things. This is a win-win. I continue making a fashion statement while still taking care of myself. You should try it out!
Another thing you could do is wear bags that distribute their weight appropriately. You’d get these results by wearing cross-body bags or even backpacks. If you are going to make the switch to cross-body bags, make sure the strap is thick enough to support the weight of the purse. Please note that no strap should feel like it’s digging into your shoulders and soul. A quick thing to remember is that your handbag should not exceed over ten percent of your weight.
After you’ve taken the necessary steps to start this new handbag process, Dr, Jonas Eyford, a Toronto-based chiropractor, suggests that you stretch. Look up stretching for backs online and try to commit to this routine as frequently as possible.
See, you can still continue rocking that hot sauce in your bag swag without hurting yourself. I know we’ve heard all our lives that there’s no beauty or fashion without pain, but screw that. It’s 2019 and it’s time we make strong statements in comfort.