Shoulder bags – What they can do to your shoulders

When was the last time you carried a bag of any sort on your shoulder? Not so long ago, if you’re like most people!  Men and women carry anything from handbags to sports bags to computer bags on one shoulder and this can be instrumental in creating shoulder pain.

The body is amazingly flexible, adapting around all sorts of uneven strains that we put on it, but the trouble is, if you are not careful, you can finish by creating a serious shoulder problem, just from the way you carry your bag(s).

How can this happen?

If, for example, you carry your handbag or your sports bag on your right shoulder, consistently, this is what happens: the fascia (a connective tissue of the body) will lay down collagen (protein) along the lines of force wherever they are in the body.  So, your shoulder will become very well adapted to carrying the bag. And that bag doesn’t have to be heavy – try putting a very lightly weighted bag on the shoulder and you’ll see that we hitch the shoulder up to keep the bag on.  That creates a ‘line of force’ and the fascia will lay down its collagen accordingly.  This makes it easier to carry your bag but will limit your movement in other ways and can, long term, be one of the factors that reduces mobility and leads to pain.

So, what can you do about it?

  1. Unfortunately, carrying a handbag on one shoulder has been very fashionable for years, however things are changing.  Get yourself a mini rucksack or simply buy a handbag with a long strap and carry your bag across the body.  There are even belts with little bags big enough to carry a key and credit card; great idea for a night out dancing.  
  2. Don’t carry so much stuff!  Keep a corner at home/in the car where you can leave whatever you don’t need.  You don’t need to carry all your makeup so just take what coordinates with your clothes that day.  You don’t need to take three pairs of gym shoes – one will do.
  3. Leave your diary in the car and just take it in to meetings where you may need it.  Or swap for an online diary, then you just need your ‘phone.
  4. Empty your bag out regularly and remove the rubbish.  Why risk shoulder pain carrying stuff you don’t even need?
  5. Buy a smaller bag – the oversized handbags are pointless; the more room you have, the more you will be tempted to carry.
  6. If your problem is your computer bag and work gear, buy a set of wheels; there are plenty on the market.
  7. If you have a ‘man bag’ for work, wear it across the body, not on one shoulder.
  8. If you carry it all in a work-sized rucksack anyway, ensure you don’t carry it on one shoulder, but on both shoulders.  And don’t swing it up from the floor; put it on a table or wall and slide your arms into the straps, or you risk damaging your back as well.
  9. Don’t let your children carry rucksacks on one shoulder; tell them it may look ‘cool’ but they won’t look cool when their backs and shoulders are painful and their body starts looking twisted! Also, heavy bags can compress their young bodies so campaign for lockers at the school; most kids these days don’t have them and have to carry their books everywhere they go, all day long, and back and forth between school and home.  This is causing severe damage which we see in the Body in Harmony clinic regularly.
  10. Remember to stretch out regularly or do a Yoga class; the body is designed to move and if you combine poor bag-carrying habits with a slumped posture at the computer with your neck jutting forward, tension in your jaw, and long periods of immobility, you are inviting long term shoulder pain and probably back pain.

If you have shoulder pain, it sometimes isn’t enough to just stop the bad habit.  You may need fascial release therapy such as Body Realignment to break the holding patterns in the body; then you can adopt your great new bag carrying techniques and keep yourself out pain.  Get in touch to discover how we can help you.

Sources: www.healthline.com, www.campbellclinic.com and www.mydetox.com

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