How often do you clean out your backpack, briefcase or handbag? Do you ever find yourself cursing the junk that seems to pile up on a daily basis? If you carry an excessive load over a period of time you will develop pain either in the neck, shoulder region or arm.
Wearing the strap of a handbag over one shoulder for extended periods puts far more load on one side of the body. This can cause you to lean, thus stressing the spinal structures. It also causes your muscles on the side carrying the bag to overwork. This sustained static work by these muscles will lead to fatigue and eventually pain or headaches as some of these muscles attach to the neck.
Carrying a briefcase can have the same effect except you are also providing a traction force on the nerves of the arm which can lead to tingling or pins and needles or even numbness in the arm or shoulder area.
A backpack, if not adjusted correctly or if too heavy can lead to the wearer leaning forward, thus poking the chin out and stooping from the mid spinal region. This will lead to headaches and neck/arm pain also if prolonged.
To avoid these problems simply ensure your load is not excessive! Clean out your bag on a regular basis. Try not to carry weight more than 15-20 per cent of your body weight. Just feel the bag, imagine how it will feel after 20 minutes and then decide if you need to lighten your load.
If carrying a pack, buy one that is adjustable around the waist so your hips can take the majority of the weight. Ensure the straps are length adjustable. Most obviously, wear both straps (that is after all the advantage of a pack).
If carrying a handbag or briefcase make sure it has a decent strap that is comfortable or a handle that is easy to grip. Swap sides every few minutes so as to not overwork one group of muscles. If in doubt ask your physiotherapist to check you when carrying your chosen piece of baggage.