Your Purse Is Seriously Hurting Your Health — Here’s What You Need to Do

A purse is somewhat of a mystery. No one knows what exactly is in the bag except the owner. One thing that’s not a mystery is how purses can be dangerous to one’s health. A heavy bag, bordering on the size of Mary Poppins’ magic bag, will result in health problems. Ahead, find out what can be done to carry a purse — filled with the essentials and then some —  while staying in good health.

How much should a purse weigh? The lighter, the better

Queen Elizabeth purse

Carrying around your purse should not be an exercise. | Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse

A purse should weigh no more than 10% of a person’s body weight, Dr. Evelyn Haworth, a chiropractor and co-inventor of the Tru-Align Body System, told SheFinds. Anything over 10% will cause damage. “Ideally, it would be less so you’re not putting too much strain on your body–and the wider the strap, the better,” Dr. Haworth said. The average weight of a purse is in the six pound range, according to the Chicago Tribune.

A heavy purse causes serious damage

woman massaging her painful neck

Your neck and spine do not appreciate the added stress. | iStock.com/SIphotography

You may think carrying a purse that’s a little too heavy is no big deal. Think again. “When you carry a heavy bag on your shoulder, you kind of have to lift [your shoulder] or lean over to the other side, otherwise it’s going to fall right off,” Dr. Sabrina Strickland, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, told Time. “However long you’re holding that bag, you’re holding your spine in a curved way.”

Symptoms may show up fast

Young woman with back pain

The pain can occur over a few hours or steadily over time. | iStock.com/halfbottle

“Joints that are under more stress than is normally expected or is age-appropriate are going to show signs of wear and tear,” Akhil Chhatre, M.D., an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine told The Cut. “These symptoms could happen within a few hours of carrying the bag (that would be considered a strain), or the damage could accumulate over time.” Personally, I’ve experienced shoulder pain from carrying a crossbody bag on one shoulder and let me tell you, it’s painful.

Carry two bags

happy woman with shopping bags

Carrying more than one bag can fix the issue. | yuriyzhuravov/iStock/Getty Images

Fortunately, there are ways to protect the integrity of your spine. One way is to carry two bags. While you may become a “bag lady,” you won’t have a hunchback or shoulder issues, which is more important than a nickname. “It’s far better to carry two bags—one on each shoulder,” Dr. Strickland told Time. “Split it up. Two evenly distributed bags is best.”

Switch shoulders

Stylish girl holding brown bag

Switch shoulders to balance the shoulder stress. | iStock.com/Voyagerix

“Be sure to not always wear it on the same side of your body,” Dr. Haworth told SheFinds. It’s only natural to carry a bag on the same side. Resist the urge and switch things up. Carry a bag in the crook of your arm or as a crossbody bag.

Downsize

Fashion girl wearing coat ,red handbag

Consider carrying a smaller purse. | iStock.com/Visoook

Buy a smaller purse. Much like a makeup bag or suitcase, a bigger bag gives one the urge to add more stuff. A smaller purse forces one to rethink what they’re carrying around. “With smaller, single-function bags, you’re less likely to start throwing everything in but the kitchen sink,” Julie Morgenstern, a professional organizer, told Refinery29.

Carry a  backpack

Woman in red shirt with book bag boarding a flight

A backpack is a quick fix. | iStock.com/ViktorCap

Before dismissing the idea of a backpack completely, hear me out. I use a backpack all the time. While I feel juvenile, my shoulders don’t ache. To minimize body strain, a backpack must be close to the body. “The reason for that is we want the load itself to mimic weight that is part of the body as much as possible,” Dr. Chhatre said. Thankfully, fashionable backpacks exist that don’t scream, “back to school.”

Exercise more

female athlete with a sports bag listening to music on her mobile phone

Exercise to keep your upper body strong. | iStock.com/Ammentorp Photography

Relieve pain by strengthening your core. “Having good posture depends on core strength, and having good core strength allows us to have good posture,” Strickland told Time. If you already suffer from an aching back, relieve the pain with exercise.

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