Is That a Purse or a Suitcase?

Posted on July 20th, 2012 by Denise | No Comments

Is That a Purse or a Suitcase?


Denise Koonce OTR

Last week I wrote about children and the backpacks they use for school.  As I was writing the blog it reminded me of how the same information applies to adults.  The information varies slightly from male to female and again in the roles we play at different times or aspects of our adult lives but nevertheless it applies. 

For example, women can at times be the worst offenders by improperly loading and carrying their purses.  Purses have gotten bigger and bigger and some women believe they need to fill them up.  I know women who could be gone a whole weekend, unintentionally, and survive on the items in her purse alone.  She has all the necessary grooming items, snacks for the kids, paper and pens, glasses for every occasion – close up, far away and sunglasses, a cell phone, a Kindle, a keychain with 20 keys, a large wallet that can no longer close, and 10 pounds of change in the bottom of her purse.

I have had friends and co-workers, over the years, approach me about my opinion as to why they are experiencing shoulder and neck pain.  I first ask if there has been a recent injury, then if anything in their routine has changed that could possibly be the reason, and if the answer is “no” to all the questions above, I then ask to see their purse.  They look at me curiously but oblige me, produce their purse and I find most of the time the purse is too large and very heavy. 

Mommies of young children are also offenders in this area.  Mothers feel compelled, out of love, to have everything they may possibly need with them at all times.  Therefore diaper bags become an extension of the home and can weigh several pounds.  Moms at this time period will actually give up their huge purse and carry only the diaper bag.  However for many, giving up the purse does not equate to giving up the contents, they are just transferred to the diaper bag.   It doesn’t stop once the child reaches toddler age either.  The diaper bag is just exchanged for an activity bag filled with books, crayons, markers, and games.  It is at this juncture that the oversized purse reappears.   

Men are not excluded from this just because they may not carry a large purse.  I have treated men who over time have begun to complain of hip or lower back pain.  Granted there can be many reasons for lower back pain but for the purpose of this topic the information applies.   I have seen men whose wallets are so large they use a rubber band around them to enable them to shove it into their back pocket.  It is the same wallet that over time creates a discolored outline of the wallet on their pants pocket where the wallet has resided.  The issue of this habit occurs while they are sitting.  Wallets of this thickness will actually alter how you align your pelvis and spine moving it away from neutral while you are in a seated position therefore over time creating a back issue. 

In the therapy world, home health therapists are known for having to bring their clinic with them.  This generally occurs in the form of a bag or bags filled with the necessary items needed to motivate a child while working towards functional developmental progression.   Overloaded bags are carried over one shoulder, while the other hand carries the bench or ball, paperwork and/or a computer. 

All of these examples describe how the size or weight of the items we carry naturally alter our position, spine and therefore our posture over time which can lead to neck, shoulder, back and hip pain and other problems.   So what is the go away lesson here?  Learn to minimize!!!!  Learn to plan ahead so you do not have to carry everything all the time.  Have a second set of certain items in your car; lock them in the glove box if necessary.  Use a crate on wheels, a rolling suitcase, use a backpack but put both straps over the shoulders, or make more than one trip.   It really will make a difference on your body.  Try it and see.  Let us know your results or suggestions of how you learned to MINIMIZE!

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