What do big purses, backpacks and talking on the phone all have in common? They all have the potential to throw our spines and neck out of alignment and cause us discomfort and pain.
Tom Coutts, a local chiropractor, points out that slinging a heavy purse or pack over the shoulder, or cradling the phone between your shoulder and neck, creates an imbalance in the body which will fatigue our muscles. Once the muscles are fatigued, the weight of our body is then shifted to our ligaments and tendons, which then strains our joints. Repetitive straining at our joints leads to wear and tear, and wear and tear leads to injury.
Is Your Chanel Weighing You Down?
A woman’s purse, for example, can weigh up to seven pounds, and hung over her shoulder all day, everyday, will cause an imbalance as she walks and stands. The end result – back, neck and shoulder pain with possible headaches.
How do you avoid this? Simple, don’t cart your purse around with you 24/7, and when you do lighten the load and try to switch shoulders every so often. You could also invest in a new smaller purse (completely ridding you of the temptation to carry everything from a first aid kit, to snacks for the whole family), or a purse that can be slung around the back like a pack, or diagonally across the body.
iPhones – A Chiro’s Bread & Butter
Cradling the phone can also cause back, neck and shoulder pain and headaches. Often dubbed “taco neck” by health professionals, phone cradling is an insidious activity that most of us have been guilty of at some point in our lives. This is an extremely bad postural habit and can exacerbate already tight neck and upper back muscles. The upper trapezius and the levator scapula muscles (found in the upper back) are the main muscles used to hold the phone this way, and these muscles tend to already be overactive and shortened in the course of performing so many of our normal daily activities.
It is recommended for those individuals who talk on the phone a lot to purchase a headset and to be aware of their posture when on the phone. Aim to keep the shoulders down and the chin tucked in slightly with the head in a neutral position – not tilted to one side.
Backpacks – Not Just For Kids
Backpack injuries are now such a common occurrence that the Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) has published guidelines on backpack usage. The simple act of putting a pack on repetitively can strain the muscles and ligaments of the neck and back. If you or your children sling the pack over one shoulder, this can cause you to develop a curvature in your spine from leaning to one side. Too heavy a back pack will eventually change the natural curvature of your spine too, and may interfere with the shock absorbency of the disks between the vertebrae from spinal compression or malalignment.
A few tips on proper usage include using both straps so that weight is distributed evenly, stand and walk upright and with aligned posture. Fit the backpack to the person, not the other way around. Oversized bags that sag below the waist are not recommended, the bottom of the pack should rest in the small of your back about 2 inches from your waist. A full pack should not weight more than 15% of your body weight. (Meaning thata 150 pound person should tote 22 lbs or less, and a 70 pound child should max out at 10 lbs.)
Now don’t think that these suggestions are not just for back packs, as these same recommendations can also be applied to child carriers, hiking packs, purses and over the shoulder shopping bags.
Another tip, when purchasing hiking or child-carryingbackpacks, make sure that they have adjustable waist straps, chest straps, padded shoulder straps, a padded back, compression straps, and reflective material. Do not to go cheap – because what you save on with the pack will be made up for later in physiotherapy, chiropractic care or massage treatments.