Recently, a young woman came to my office with complaints of severe middle and lower back pain. On her first visit, I carried her purse (big bag), to the treatment room to assess its weight. Then, I asked her permission to weight the bag and discovered that it weighed 8 pounds. While 8 pounds does not seem excessive, the woman weighed 120 pounds and, based on the research, would be advised to carry a 2.5 to 3.5 pound bag, (2-3% of her body weight).
A recent study shows that the average weight of a woman’s purse has increased by 38% and now exceeds 6 pounds. In spite of technological advances, women have not found a way to simplify their lives, or at least what they think they need in their lives. High tech gadgets have only added weight to a purse already filled to the brim.
On a whim, I decided to ask permission to examine the contents of some of my patient’s purses. A typical purse includes the following: hairbrush, cosmetic bag, mirror, feminine products, keys, and sunglasses, reading glasses, checkbook, wallet, coupons, water bottle, and medications. Additionally, I discovered heavy high tech products such as cellular phones, MP3 players, digital cameras, Bluetooth earpieces, and rechargers. Lastly, some women add the weight of a book or Kindle to the bag. Studies also show that the larger the bag and stronger the straps, the more items are stuffed in, resulting in a very heavy purse.
It is a pervasive attitude that a woman should never be stranded without her purse full of essentials. So, where is the problem? The problem is that carrying a heavy bag, usually on one side of the body, forces the body to tilt forward and in the opposite direction to compensate. Overtime, this change in posture leads to neck, middle and lower back pain.
SIGNS THAT YOUR PURSE IS TOO HEAVY:
Consider the following suggestions to promote healthy use of a purse and prevent injury.
SUGGESTIONS TO PREVENT INJURY:
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This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.