Purses and Bags Can Be a Pain in the Neck

You may be aware that children’s backpacks need to be chosen carefully and worn correctly to protect them from back pain. But did you know the same applies for your purse or bag?

See Tips to Prevent Back Pain from Kids' Backpacks

woman with backpackA messenger bag is the least likely style of bag to trigger neck strain and stiffness.
Stiff Neck Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Adults can avoid shoulder and neck pain by making smart choices about the purses and bags they carry every day.

See Causes of Upper Back Pain

How purses cause problems

According to health experts, purses and bag can cause pain in the neck, shoulders, and upper back by putting constant pressure on the muscles, soft tissues, and nerves of the shoulder.

See Neck Strain: Causes and Remedies

This strain is often lopsided as well, as people tend to carry their bags on the same side.

See How Poor Posture Causes Neck Pain

In addition, purses carried in the crook of the elbow can strain tendons on the inside of the arm.

See What Causes Hand Pain and Numbness?

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Tips for preventing pain from purses or bags

These tips from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and American Occupational Therapy Association can help you avoid neck and shoulder pain from your bag:

  • Limit bag weight to 10% of your total body weight. For example, a person weighing 150 pounds should not carry a bag heavier than 15 pounds.
  • See Avoid Back Injury with the Right Lifting Techniques

  • Choose bags that are worn across the shoulder, messenger-bag style. These are the best at distributing the weight more equally.
  • Do a “bag purge” once a month. Bags tend to accumulate extra things that don’t need to be carried around all the time. Weed out the items you’re not using, are done with, or are duplicated.
  • Use more than one bag, depending on function. Use a smaller purse when you’re running an errand or two and save the full-size purse for trips or all-day excursions.
  • Switch arms often, so one elbow or shoulder is not bearing the weight all the time.
  • Choose a bag with compartments, so the heaviest items can be stored low and evenly.
  • Choose a bag with wide, adjustable straps. Narrow straps concentrate the weight on a smaller area.
  • Choose travel-size options for lotions, make-up, or hand sanitizer.
  • Remove extra cards and loose change from your wallet.

See Identifying Incorrect Posture

With a few small precautions, you can make sure that your daily bag or purse habits don’t contribute to neck or shoulder pain.

See Neck Pain Treatment

Learn more

Neck Strengthening Exercises

Treatment for a Stiff Neck

Post written by Carrie DeVries