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News & Events
Shoulder Bags and Purses Can Cause Chronic Pain for Active Older Adults
As I get older I have more aches and pains than when I was a 20-something. But who knew that my shoulder bag or purse might be the culprit for many of the pains in my back, neck and shoulders. Shoulder bags of any kind can change our gait, our balance and our posture. Active adults, like those living at Westminster Village, can prevent these aches and pains with some simple solutions.
Seniors, what’s in your wallet?
Right now, I have a wallet that has change including 40 pennies, and several plastic membership and bank cards. Forty pennies, while not much in value, cause my wallet to be one of the heaviest items in my purse. I protect my cell phone with a heavy outer case. My key chain hosts several keys and shopping membership tags. I carry cosmetics, reading glasses, pens, and Kleenex. My 83-year old mother picked up my purse the other day and almost toppled over.
In addition to my purse over my right shoulder, I sometimes carry a computer laptop bag. I have notebooks, papers, connectors, headphones, and other items necessary to my laptop. I may include a book, an umbrella, or an extra pair of comfortable shoes in this bag.
I’ve never weighed either my purse or my bag, but I know that they usually make me walk funny. They pull me to the side because I’m trying to correct my balance. The bags slip and fall down my arm making me adjust putting further strain on my body.
Weighted bags cause pain for even the most active senior.
Too much weight on one side of our body, usually the dominant side, causes us to be off-balance. When we walk, both arms swing to help us keep our balance. If we’re carrying a heavy load on one side, then that arm doesn’t swing in the same way. One arm must work harder and the result can be chronic pain in your shoulder, arm or neck muscles.
Have you ever thought about how your body is aligned when carrying a heavy load on one side? It makes sense that if one side is heavier than the other, we’re going to lean into the weight. The correction we make is going to affect our posture. We walk crooked and put undue stress on our back and spine. Yep, you got it, more pain!
All that excess weight on your body and the pain and stress you’re feeling in your muscles can also cause tension headaches. The pain and tension might require a trip to the doctor for treatment. While you can increase your strength at the Wellness Center, no exercises can eliminate the consequences of carrying bags that are too heavy.
Simple solutions can lessen pain for active seniors
The solutions to the problem of a heavy purse is mostly common sense. Reduce the weight of the purse. I try to empty and reorganize my purse or bag every night. I’ll move the 40 pennies to a bank for future use. Decide what is unnecessary. Some of my items could be left in my car.
Carrying a bag with wider straps can redistribute the weight on your shoulder making it less painful. The strap will also help keep the bag on your shoulder so that you’re not constantly trying to catch it when it falls. You should also choose a purse with a strap that can be lengthened or shortened.
Switch shoulders from time to time. If you have that second bag, carry one on one shoulder, and the other in your other hand. The weight on both sides will better balance your body.
Don’t text while carrying bags. We tend to look down when we text on our phones. With the weight of the bag, this puts even more tension on our necks. Wait until you get to your destination and set that bag down. It probably doesn’t need to be said that texting and walking is a dangerous practice even without the purse.
If you need to carry multiple items, think about a back pack instead of the shoulder bag. Consider a fanny pack; they’re back in style. Purchase a smaller purse. Maintaining upper body strength will also help lessen the likelihood of pain.
Don’t let something as simple as the weight of your shoulder bag affect the lifestyle that you’ve chosen for your senior years. You can continue to be an active senior with a few minor adjustments. Enjoy life with less pain!
-Elaine of the Westminster Village Blog Team