Are Backpacks Better than Shoulder Bags?

With summer in full swing and beach days becoming more frequent, how do you carry your beach necessities? While many people choose to wear a shoulder bag, this might not be the best option for your health.

 While shoulder bags, such as totes, are easy to grab and are usually spacious, carrying a heavy one for a long period of time can be detrimental to your natural gait. Your natural gait is the way your arms and legs swing as you walk and is imperative to your body’s overall balance. When you carry a shoulder bag, this puts extra weight on one of your shoulders, making the other arm work harder to compensate for the weight of the bag. This can throw off your balance and result in back and muscle pain.

If you tend to carry your tote on the same arm, this can cause the muscles to grow bigger while the other arm remains the same, causing further imbalance. Depending on the heaviness of your shoulder bag, carrying it predominantly on one shoulder can also cause the opposite side of your spine to spasm, causing tightness and pain in your lower back and sacrum.
Other results of carrying a heavy shoulder bag can include:
• Muscle tightness
• Backaches
• Decreased curve of the neck due to tightness, also known as “military neck”
• Neck pain that causes the turning of the head to be difficult
• Headaches

If you want to avoid any of these results, using a backpack instead of a shoulder bag can be the answer. Backpacks distribute the weight that you are carrying evenly across your back instead of focusing it on one side, maintaining your body’s natural gait and maintaining a balanced muscle tone.
While backpacks are generally better, they too can cause problems. Carrying too heavy of a load can force your spine to bend backward, causing you to pull forward to maintain balance. This action can make your spine compress unnaturally, which can create hip and back pain and a hunched posture.

Some helpful tips to avoid experiencing the symptoms of a heavy weight on your back and shoulders due to a shoulder bag or a backpack include:
• Choose a bag with wider straps that will further distribute the weight across your back and shoulders
• Periodically switch shoulders
• Choose bags with alternative strap options
• Avoid wearing heels while carrying your bag, this will cause further imbalance and pain

If you are having back and shoulder pain, please call Jamaica Hospital’s Orthopedics Department at 718-206-6923 with any questions.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.