Do you have a pain in your neck? Surprisingly, one potential contributor to this could be an accessory that many of us carry around daily: Our purses! Yes, according to orthopedic specialists, neck pain and purses can go hand in hand.

The relationship between heavy purses and neck pain:

A Fashion Statement:

In today’s fashion-conscious society, large and oversized purses have become increasingly popular. Let’s face it, large purses can be cute and they hold a ton of stuff! Influenced by appearance and function, many of us opt for purses that not only accommodate our essentials but also make a style statement. While many of these purses may look fabulous, they are not so fantastic for our necks and backs.

A mother’s heavy burden:

As mother’s, we often find ourselves carrying more than just our own belongings. From snacks and toys to diapers and baby essentials, a mother’s purse can easily become a repository of all things necessary for tending to kid’s needs. This well-intentioned preparation can inadvertently lead to potential strain.

How do purses cause neck pain?

Carrying heavy purses can exert excessive stress on the neck and shoulder muscles when the weight of the purse is unevenly distributed or concentrated on one side. The muscles on that side have to work harder to counterbalance the load.

Uneven distribution of weight can lead to muscular imbalances and excessive tension in the neck and shoulder area. All this contributes to pain and discomfort. Dr. Ayla AzadĀ from the Ontario Chiropractic Association has coined these symptoms as “heavy purse syndrome.”

What is heavy purse syndrome?

Heavy purse syndrome is when the strain caused by the weight of wearing a purse can lead to a variety of symptoms. These include:

Shoulder and Neck Pain: The constant load on one side can cause muscular fatigue and discomfort in the shoulder and neck region. The pain may range from mild to severe, depending on the weight of the purse and the duration of carrying it.

Muscle Tension and Knots: Carrying a heavy purse can result in increased muscle tension and the development of trigger points or knots in the shoulder and neck muscles. These tender areas can be painful and may cause referred pain or radiating discomfort.

Reduced Range of Motion: The strain from a heavy purse can limit the range of motion in the shoulder joint, making movements such as lifting, reaching, and rotating the arm more challenging and painful.

Headaches: The excessive strain on the neck and shoulder muscles can contribute to tension headaches, which often manifest as a dull, achy pain at the base of the skull or in the temples.

Numbness or Tingling: Prolonged compression or pressure on the nerves in the shoulder and neck area can lead to sensations of numbness, tingling, or a “pins and needles” feeling in the arms and hands.

If you have these symptoms, don’t just assume it’s your purse. Be sure to talk to your doctor and get a professional opinion.

How to help purse related neck pain

  1. Lighten the Load: Regularly declutter your purse and remove unnecessary items. Carry only the essentials to reduce the weight and strain on your neck and shoulders.
  2. Opt for a Smaller Purse: Consider downsizing to a smaller, lightweight purse. This helps limit the amount of items you can carry, preventing the temptation to overload it.
  3. Choose Ergonomic Designs: Look for purses with adjustable and wider straps. Opt for bags that distribute weight evenly across the shoulders to minimize strain on specific muscles.
  4. Switch Sides Regularly: If you prefer carrying a shoulder bag, alternate the side you carry it on throughout the day. This helps prevent overloading and overworking one side of your body.
  5. Practice Good Posture: Maintain proper posture while carrying a purse. Keep your shoulders relaxed, back straight, and head aligned with your spine. Avoid hunching or slouching, as this can exacerbate strain on the neck and shoulders.
  6. Strengthen and Stretch: Incorporate exercises that target the neck, shoulder, and upper back muscles into your routine. Strengthening exercises help support these muscles, while stretching exercises alleviate tension and improve flexibility.
  7. Apply Heat or Cold Therapy: Use heat packs or cold compresses to help relax muscles and reduce inflammation. Apply them to the affected areas for 15-20 minutes at a time as needed.
  8. Seek Professional Help: If pain persists or worsens despite these strategies, consider consulting a healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist or chiropractor. They can provide targeted treatment and guidance to address your specific pain and help you prevent further discomfort.
A woman wears a leather backpack.

Purse Alternatives

Contrary to popular belief, a purse is not the only thing women can stash their stuff in. You’ve got options!

When it comes to reducing the strain on your neck and shoulders, exploring alternative bag choices can make a big difference. Here are two popular purse alternatives that can provide better weight distribution:

Crossbody Bag

A crossbody bag is worn diagonally across the body, with the strap resting on one shoulder and the bag positioned on the opposite hip. This design allows for a more balanced distribution of weight, reducing strain on one side of the body. C

Crossbody bags come in various sizes and styles. There are compact options for minimal essentials and larger versions with multiple compartments By keeping your hands free and evenly distributing the load, crossbody bags can help alleviate neck and shoulder pain associated with heavy purses.

Backpack

Backpacks are another excellent alternative for carrying your essentials. With two shoulder straps, backpacks evenly distribute the weight across your shoulders and upper back. This balanced weight distribution reduces strain on specific muscles, making them a suitable choice for those prone to neck and shoulder pain.

When selecting a backpack, opt for one with padded straps and multiple compartments for better organization. This ensures that the weight is distributed evenly and that your belongings are easily accessible.

How to make your purse light and easy to carry

When it comes to packing your purse, keep things simple my friends! Here are my necessities. If I need more space for an extended outing, I ditch my purse and bring a small backpack.

The Basics:

  • Keys
  • Wallet
  • Phone
  • Sunglasses

Hygiene:

  • Hand Sanitizer (travel size)
  • Baby Wipes (travel size!)
  • Gum or mints
  • Feminine products

Comfort items for kids:

  • Small Snacks
  • Water
  • Pen and small notebook

First Aid Supplies:

  • Bandaids
  • Neosporin
  • Tweasers
  • Alcohol Swabs

Kids age dependent items:

Diapers, Pull Ups, Extra Underwear

Pacifiers

Bottle

Nursing Cover

Everybody is different, and that’s great!

The funny thing about creating these type of lists, is that everyone has their own strong opinions about what is truly necessary for them. For many people, makeup is essential, and I respect that! My list is best for those wanting to take a minimalist approach.

Final Thoughts

Purses can be a pain in the neck! By decluttering our purses, and trying to downsize, we can alleviate and prevent discomfort associated with heavy purses. Contrary to popular belief, style and comfort can coexist!

What you carry in your purse is as unique as your needs and preferences. Some people carry a massive bag of tricks like Mary Poppins, others prefer to carry far less. Discover what works best for your body whatever stage of life your at!

 

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