Medically Reviewed by Rodney K. Alan, MD
“Fashion knows no pain,” a line probably coined by a fashion designer. You know it’s not true, if only based on your personal experience with high heels, neckties or backpacks. Purses and handbags are another place where fashion absolutely can cause you pain. How many of the following do you carry daily in a handbag or purse: wallet, phone, computer, keys, makeup, water bottle, notebook, diary, pens, pencils, workout clothes, gym shoes, umbrella…?
“Carrying a heavy handbag can have short-term and long-term health issues,” says McLeod Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Rodney Alan. “Headaches, Neck and shoulder pain can be triggered by weighty handbags. Long-term stress on joints can sprain elbows and cause osteoarthritis in your knees, leading to a need for total joint replacement.” Heavy bags carried on one shoulder cause a change in your balance, stance and the way you walk. Tired muscles can’t hold the spine straight, increasing the strain on your body.
HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
Most experts suggest a purse weigh no more than 10% of your body weight or 10 pounds, whichever is more. As a guide, a gallon of milk weighs a bit over 8 pounds. (We’ll pause here, while you run and weigh your handbag or compare it to a gallon of milk.)
WHAT ELSE TO DO
Yes, you want to be fashionable. However, a purse or handbag that is too heavy will affect your body and make you look old before your time. And that is not fashionable.
If you have muscle, spine or skeletal pain, see your Orthopedic Specialist for a diagnosis and treatment options, if needed.
Find an Orthopedic Specialist near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, National Institutes of Health, Arthritis Foundation, Rosalind Franklin Medical School, Bupa’s Centre for Sports Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine