Neck Pain – Is it Your Purse's Fault?

neck pain woman's purse chihuahaImagine tucking a small chihuahua under your arm and heading out for drinks, making sure not to drop that pooch as you navigate the subway, sidewalks, and a crowded bar. Imagine doing this every day for the rest of your life and then consider how that might contribute to the development of chronic neck pain.

The point of this little daydream? Well, it appears that the average weight of a woman’s purse is some 5-7 pounds (roughly the weight of a small dog) and that lugging this purse around day after day might be an often overlooked factor in chronic neck pain. Indeed, the British Association of Chiropractors have considered issuing a warning about the risk of injuries related to the ever-increasing weight of handbags.

What’s in a Woman’s Purse?

So what’s in these bags that is so essential? Clearly this varies from person to person but the increasing size of handbags has moved them from a clutch to a shoulder bag, with room to carry a laptop, tablet, phone (which can be a cause of neck pain in itself), bottle of water (remember: dehydration can also cause neck pain!), books, make-up, diary, chihuahua, and all manner of other things. In fact, some manufacturers have noticed that their customers are carrying heavier and heavier loads in their bags and have had to reinforce straps and stitching to compensate.

As these 5lb-plus weights swing perilously from many a person’s shoulder every day this is the equivalent of a hod carrier on a building site and, as we’ve seen before on the PainNeck blog, construction workers are increasingly prone to neck injuries from repetitive strain. While carrying a heavy bag may not cause an immediate injury it can have a cumulative effect, causing imbalances in spinal alignment, increased strain on the shoulder muslces, neck muscles, and nerves in the arms and brachial plexus.

How to Have a Lighter Purse

Many designer handbags are bigger than ever before, with myriad pockets to ensure no one is without that vital hairgrip or cell phone charger or lunch receipt from three years ago. So, what’s the best way to minimise the weight of your purse? Here are some suggestions:

  • Every weekend, dump out the contents of your bag and get rid of non-essential items – it’s amazing how they accumulate and add weight.
  • Consider having essentials at work and at home – if you don’t need them on the go then don’t carry them with you.
  • Scale down – get a smaller bag and you’ll soon get better at prioritising things to take everywhere with you.
  • Have a talk with your kids (if you have any) – it’s incredible how toy cars, wet wipes, storybooks, hats, and so on can sneak into your purse unnoticed.
  • Get a smaller wallet – do you really need all those loyalty cards, credit cards, foreign currencies, photos of your cats, and other things in there all the time?
  • Choose audiobooks – seriously, an MP3 of War and Peace is a lot lighter than the hardcopy so eye-read at home and ear-read on the go.

If you’ve had a thorough clear-out of your bag, downsized, and re-prioritised and you’re still weighing in at more than 5lbs consider alternative carrying methods. This might be a light backpack, a thigh-holster-bag or cross-shoulder bag, or even choosing a new coat with bigger pockets to transfer the weight of your purse and phone at the very least. Or, better yet, avoid neck pain associated with a heavy purse by getting someone else to carry your things for you.

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