The Journal
30th January 2018

If Your Bag is Giving You Back Pain Here’s How to Fix it…

explorers looking across a valley at an old stone bridge

According to recent research completed by Health & Safety Executive nearly 9 million working days were lost during 2016-17 due to musculoskeletal injuries, and of this 38 % were due to back injuries, which was often considered an injury that men were more prone to. However, this trend is beginning to change as it begins to affect women more and more.

Of course, a good deal of these sick days were down to serious conditions and on the job injuries. But, one of the most common and regularly underestimated causes of back injury is a heavy bag.

In this blog, we will cover why our bags cause discomfort, how we can avoid it and what bags would be better suited to you.

Whilst Carrying a Heavy Bag…

young woman pulling along oversized, over packed bag

Your Natural Posture is Affected – One the problems with carrying a bag over one shoulder is that it greatly disturbs your body’s natural posture whilst you’re walking along. This is basically the way that your limbs swing whilst you walk and it’s the body’s way of keeping you balanced. When you carry a handbag on one side of your body, that arm isn’t able to swing normally which means that the other arm has to work harder to compensate.

Your Muscles Are Unbalanced – Because the burden of your bag is concentrated on one side, it means you’re carrying disproportionate cargo. Most of us carry our bags on the strongest side – if you’re a lefty, you’ll normally carry your bag on your left shoulder, for example. This can cause problems because as your dominant side becomes much more muscularly developed than the other we create an imbalanced stance such as one shoulder higher than the other. The unbalanced load also forces the muscles in your spine to work hard to counterweigh the weight, which can mean that the opposite side of your spine can go into spasm. The heavier the bag, the harder everything below the shoulder has to work.

…and Consequently, Your Muscles Stiffen – Carrying heavy bags can cause the trapezius, the muscle that sits on top of the shoulders, and the muscles that travel from the shoulder to the base of the neck to spasm and tighten. And when this happens it can cause stiffness in the upper back, neck and shoulder areas. This can cause a great deal of discomfort, as the muscles that help you carry the bag also assist in turning your head.

Excess Tension Can Even Cause Headaches – Some people have been known to develop headaches caused by the tension of heavy lifting. Pain in the shoulder and neck can radiate to the front which causes the headaches.

diagram explaining how neck pain can cause headaches

What Can You Do to Fix These Problems?

Reduce Your Bag WeightThe general rule is to never transport more than 10% of your body weight. The chances are you’re probably carrying far more than you need.

Choose a Bag With a Wider StrapThe wider strapped bags are much better for you because they distribute the weight over a wider area. Which means that fragile architecture in your shoulder which houses the nerves that travel from the neck to the arm have more protection from damage.

Choose Bags With Customisable StrapsChoose a bag which has handles as well as straps so you can give your shoulders occasional breaks to lighten the burden.

Choose the Right Bag For Your Body Your body type should dictate the kind of bag that you choose. If the bag is too short or high, it will affect your arms natural arc as you walk. Conversely, if your bag is too long, it will affect your hip swing.

Swap ShouldersSwapping shoulders periodically means that you’re sharing the burden across each shoulder and your shoulder muscles develop equally.

Think About Footwear Mixing high heels and a heavy bag can be an absolute killer for your back. And this is because heels naturally tilt your pelvis forward and can leave you vulnerable to back pain.  

Opt For a Backpack Backpacks are better for your muscles and help to prevent back and shoulder pain because they share the burden of the load.

Keep FitStretching, yoga, pilates and swimming are great ways to keep your shoulders strong. This is particularly important if you carry a heavy bag to and from a sedentary job as it can help to restore your natural posture and loosen up stiff muscles.

woman performing flexible yoga position

If nothing else, why not consider swapping to a smaller bag? Smaller bags will help to ensure you’re not weighing yourself down with unnecessary items.

We believe that it’s incredibly important to match the right person with the right bag, which is why we often a great selection of women’s bags to suit all tastes and requirements. But, it’s worth remembering that style isn’t the primary factor; it’s important to look the part, of course, but your health and well being should take precedence over all else. And this is our bespoke bag service comes in: we can help you to create a custom bag to suit the specifications that are important in your everyday life.

Contact us today for help and advice, or to order a bespoke design to ensure that you look and feel great every day.