July 24, 2017 Patient Education 0

Is Your Purse Causing You Shoulder Pain?

Have you been experiencing shoulder and back pain recently?

What’s in your purse?

For many women, purses serve as a catch-all. Everything you could ever need is in your purse: books, gym clothes, makeup, your wallet, everything. You’ve probably carried a purse for years now, and the weight of it may have gotten away from you. If you get used to carrying around a heavy bag, you will forget just how heavy it is. This is called neural adaptation.

Neural adaptations occur when your body learns to “forget” about a stimulus over time. When you carry your purse every day, it allows your body to adapt. For the most part, neural adaptations are a good thing. They are why your eyes don’t burn every time you turn a light on. When it comes to your purse, however, some issues can arise from neural adaptations. While they are often easy to solve, these issues can require physical therapy if they go unchecked.

Heavy Purse Syndrome

The Ontario Chiropractic Association’s Dr. Ayla Azad famously coined the term, “heavy purse syndrome” to refer to the peripheral issues caused by carrying a purse every day. According to Azad, the symptoms of heavy purse syndrome include:

  1. Upper neck and back pain
  2. Poor posture
  3. Muscle spasms
  4. Sciatica
  5. Tendinitis of the elbow
  6. Injury to the rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder
  7. Tension headaches
  8. Numbness or tingling in the arms, hands or fingers due to pinched nerves

Of course, the purse is the surface level cause of the issue, but that’s not quite everything you need to know. It’s important to understand why your purse is causing you pain before you go looking into orthopedics or physical therapy.

Just to get it out of the way: no, your purse is not upset with you. It loves you very much, and would never do anything to hurt you on purpose.

Your purse is causing you back and shoulder pain because of it’s effect on your spine. A purse is an asymmetrical load, as you carry it only on one arm. Adding a significant amount of weight to one side of your body and not the other can cause asymmetrical muscle development. You may notice that the shoulder muscles on your dominant side (where you likely carry your bag) are noticeably larger than on the other side.

Given time, or increased weight, these problems can severely compound. In some cases, they are known to cause spasms in the opposite side of the spine, as well as long-term posture issues.

Here’s some good news, however: these problems can be prevented, or reversed.

What To Do When Your Purse Is Too Heavy

I suppose if your purse is too heavy it may not be too much of a problem, but your posture can become one. There are a myriad of solutions to heavy purse syndrome, from shoulder switching to orthopedics to physical therapy.

The Good Solutions

If your symptoms of heavy purse syndrome don’t warrant orthopedic shoes, or you can’t afford physical therapy, these are the solutions for you. Free solutions all follow the same basic principle: don’t allow the weight to become too much, especially on one side.

The two most useful of these solutions are to keep your purse as light as possible, and constantly switch the shoulder you carry your purse on. By ensuring you pack as lightly as possible, you should avoid any major issues resulting from carrying your purse. Switching the shoulder that you carry your purse on will prevent major asymmetry in muscle development, and keep your posture even. These solutions should help alleviate pain in the short term, and prevent issues from worsening in the future.

The Best Solutions

Before searching for a permanent solution, such as orthopedic surgery, you will want to consult an orthopedic surgeon or a physical therapist. It is important to make sure that any problems you may be experiencing are caused by posture issues resulting from purse carrying, as opposed to any other issue. While we live in an age where information is readily available, having access to that information does not mean you have knowledge of it. It is imperative that you consult a trained medical professional, unless you are one, before making any medical decisions that will have a major impact on your life.

Orthopedic surgery is far and away the most efficient way to handle issues and diseases related to posture. By first seeking consult with an orthopedic surgeon or getting physical therapy, you may find an orthopedic surgeon specializing in issues having to do with posture. As the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons clarifies, orthopedic surgeons are all equipped with general knowledge, but many choose to specialize in a particular set of bones or category of patient. By taking the time out of your day to find an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the issues you are experiencing as a result of your purse, you can see your posture issues fixed in a matter of hours.

cody