When the weather is cold, we bundle up in gloves, scarves, hats, and sweaters. But these aren't the only extra burdens we carry. From Kleenex and chapstick in our purses, to holiday shopping bags, skis, and umbrellas, being prepared for the season means taking on extra weight. If carried incorrectly, extra loads contribute to neck and shoulder tension, fatigue in the arms, and back pain. If carried well, winter loads provide a welcome exercise opportunity at a time when exercise is harder to come by.
The following tips can help you reap benefits, rather than back pain, from carrying a purse and other bags.
1) Let the weight of the purse pull your shoulder gently downward. Don't tense your shoulder upward against the weight of the purse. This gently stretches your trapezius muscle, instead of tightening it, and gives your muscles a rest.
2) Carry your purse closer to your spine than your belly button. Use your elbow to nudge the bag or straps towards your back. This way, there's less torque on your back, the purse doesn't slide from your shoulders as easily, and the weight of the purse helps settle your shoulder backward instead of forward.
On the left, Maya uses her purse to keep her shoulder
back, and to stretch her pec and trapezius muscles.
On the right, she has unhealthy shoulder posture.
3) Use your inner corset so that carrying your purse/bag becomes a healthy workout for your abdominal and intrinsic back muscles. By using your muscles to carry the weight of your bag, you spare your spinal discs and nerves. Chapter 5 in 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back teaches you how to use your inner corset. Click here to download this chapter for free.
If this woman from Burkina Faso was not
using her inner corset, the weight of the bucket
would compress her spine.