At a recent book fair, my friend, a teacher, bought as many 25-cent books for her classroom as possible. She squeezed ten into her bag, opting to remove her 2.5-liter water bottle, before handing the remaining seven to me. I slipped them into my purse without difficulty. Both of us were able to achieve this feat because of our giant, oversized handbags. I would like to say that we were carrying them in honor of the event, but we weren’t. I always carry a giant, oversized handbag. How else would I hold my 32-ounce water bottle, book, wallet, keys, phone, notepad, pens, pencils, highlighters, camera, chap-stick, nail file and everything else I needed throughout the day? Besides, it’s not hurting anyone. Right?
For the most part, yes. As long as I don’t smack anyone in the face with it, no one is being hurt by my 20-pound purse . . . except for me and, if you’re anything like me, you.
Lugging around that much weight on one shoulder is very likely your primary source of pain. Your body tries to readjust when the extra weight is added. One shoulder ends up higher than the other, and you start walking lopsided. Your muscles are strained as much as, if not more than, they would be if you over-exercised. Your spine curves into your shoulders, and before you know it, pain is a permanent part of your life. Your back, joints, shoulders, neck and hips ache. You spend hours kneading knots, only to develop more when you pick up your purse. You’re plagued. The good news is you can permanently end the pain. The bad news is . . .
You have to give up your purse. If you switch from an over-stuffed, oversized bag to one with more reasonable dimensions, your achy days will disappear. The American Chiropractic Association recommends carrying one that is no more than 10 percent of your body weight. You should also look for structured, shorter-handled bags, as they’ll lessen the stress to your shoulders.
But if you can’t bear to let go, there are a few things you can do instead:
• Alternate shoulders – switching periodically from one side to the other will alleviate some of the damage
• Empty out your purse regularly – you’d be surprised how much can accumulate in seven days. At the end of the week dump your bag and get rid of everything but the essentials, if you can
• Use the pockets – evenly distribute the weight by placing items in every single pocket
• Be conscious of how you’re walking – if you find that you’ve gone lopsided, purposely square your shoulders, to correct your posture
• Get regular massages – okay, do you really need a reason?
• Take a warm bath with Epsom salts