Health & Wellness

7 Ways to Combat Heavy Purse Syndrome

I started carrying a purse after my first daughter was born. Back then, it was a dainty little thing that could barely hold my tiny wallet. The big diaper bag I lugged around contained all the baby essentials I’d need for my daughter. As my kids grew, so did the size of my purse. I ditched the diaper bag and opted for a jumbo size purse. John often makes fun of me because this thing is huge. I can easily lose items in it. I’m 100% serious!

Ladies, can you relate? From the research I’ve read, women these days have huge purses. Researcher Kelly Styring discovered that, on average, women carry 67 items in their handbags. It’s their personal hub for finances, health, beauty and keepsakes. I’ve never sat down to count how much is mine, but I bet I’m not far off.

My purse is with me everywhere. I don’t leave home without it. As moms, we are running everywhere from work to daycare to a night out with friends. The average commute for an Ontario woman is 53 minutes! Our purse is always by our side. Rather, I should say hanging off our shoulder.

7 Ways to Combat Heavy Purse Syndrome - It's true. Your purse can cause back pain. These simple strategies can help!

A heavy purse can cause some major issues. According to the Ontario Chiropractic Association, a heavy purse carried on one shoulder forces the muscle and spine to compensate for uneven weight. This results in unnecessary strain on the body and cause a host of different issues like poor posture, headaches, muscle strain, neck and arm pain and sometimes even nerve damage. Unfortunately, these issues can become chronic and impact quality of life. Who knew your purse could do this much damage?

According to Health Canada, 85% of Canadians will suffer from back pain in their working lifetime. Thankfully, Ontario Chiropractors have some helpful strategies to combat heavy purse syndrome so your health isn’t impacted and you can still bring your life with you wherever you go.

1. Choose your purse carefully. Look for a purse that is proportionate to your body size and has multiple pockets to distribute its weight more evenly. Opt for wide, adjustable and padded shoulder straps, if possible. A poorly designed shoulder strap can dig into your shoulder and irritate your nerves. Having both a short handle and long strap gives you two different options for carrying it and can give your back a break.

2. Pack it with care. Follow this mantra, “If you don’t need it, leave it!” I clean out my purse regularly and get rid of anything that doesn’t belong. I’m always amazed at the kind of stuff I’ll find. When you are packing your purse, put the heaviest items at the bottom. Another tip is keeping one wallet for work and another for social outings as you generally need different items for both.

3. Alternate shoulders. Typically, I carry my purse on my left shoulder. However, I’m going to regularly switch sides to give my left shoulder a break even though it may feel weird at first. It’s also important to use both hands to check the weight of your purse and square your shoulders. Try to not lift your shoulder carrying the purse to keep the straps from slipping. You can also try wearing the strap across your chest to better distribute the weight evenly across your back.

4. Be conscious of your posture. I have to really watch myself or I find myself slouching. When you are standing, your head, shoulders, hips and ankles should line up comfortably above the other. I’m hoping this extra effort will become second nature for me!

5. Exercise regularly. Focus on strengthening your core stomach and back muscles to give your spine more mobility. Having a strong core makes it less stressful on your body when you do have to lug around a heavy bag. I have a friend who swears by Pilates and says it has done wonders for improving her core muscles.

6. Stretching is key. Even if you rarely exercise, you should still be stretching. It’s important to stretch both before and after you carry any heavy load. For example, your hamstring muscles, located at the back of your thigh, are often some of your body’s tightest muscles and can be a contributor to back pain.

7. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Don’t forget to drink water throughout the day. I struggle with this because I drink so much coffee. I find keeping a water bottle beside me throughout the day as I work helps me to get the recommended amount. Water helps your body maintain soft tissue elasticity and fluid in your joints keeping you healthy and mobile.

Next time you are about to grab your purse and run out the door, think of these seven tips! Keep back pain at bay with minimal effort. If your back is sore now, consider visiting a chiropractor in your area. My uncle has been seeing a local chiropractor in my area for his back and has said the visits have improved his quality of life.

Visit the Ontario Chiropractic Association to learn more about bones, muscles, joints and the central nervous system and to find a local chiropractor.

Does your purse give you back pain?

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Disclosure: I was compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Stacie Vaughan

Stacie is the mom of two girls and lives in Ontario, Canada. She enjoys cooking/baking, photography, reading, DIY and is fueled by lots of coffee!

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