Victoria-BeckhamVictoria Beckham aka Posh was under the scanner for causing pain in women’s neck and shoulders by inspiring them to follow her trend of carrying big, heavy bags on their shoulders and arms. This trend though looks cool and glamorous to many but in reality, causes damage to your muscles and joints. Termed by medics as ‘Poshitis’, it refers to women spraining or tearing muscles and tendons due to heavy bags.

‘Women may think that they are following a catwalk trend but they are storing up trouble. We have seen a huge increase in shoulder and neck problems and killer heels can add to the pressure on posture. We have seen handbags which weighed a huge one-and-a-half stone. It can cause repetitive strain injury and pain in the shoulder and neck,’ said physiotherapist Sammy Margos to the Sunday Express.

We asked Parag Shastry an ergonomic expert at Godrej Interio and Dr Zubeir Patel, a physiotherapist, to explain how this trend can affect women in the long run. 

Why is it harmful to carry big, heavy purses on the shoulder or arms? What ailments can it cause?

Parag: Our experts at Godrej Inteio ergonomics cell too have documented a sharp increase in cases of shoulder and neck pain in women. The reason for this pain or discomfort is carrying a heavy bag or purse on one side of the body. This causes an imbalance in posture when the person stands or walks. It also presses muscles and nerves in the neck which run down to the shoulder and are severely strained due to constant load. If proper care is not taken in time, the pain might escalate to problems like frozen shoulder and arthritis.

Dr Patel: There is a mesh of nerves in the area between the neck and shoulder. There is a pull on the nerve roots on the side on which the weight is carried and compression on the opposite side because of the tilting of the head towards the opposite side. Similar thing happens in the upper and lower back as well with muscles and nerve roots stretched on one side and compressed on the opposite side. Not to forget that there are blood vessels too in the area between the neck and shoulder, even they get pressed. The problems this cascade of events can lead to are:

  • Tight and inflamed muscles. Since the work of the muscles is to move a particular body part, the arm, neck, back movements are restricted and painful.
  • Pulling or compression on the nerves or nerve roots can damage them which leads to paraesthesia which means abnormal sensations like tingling, numbness, pins and needles in the fingertips or along the arm.
  • Damaged nerves can lead to loss of strength too in the hand so gripping things becomes difficult. Fine motor skills are affected like writing, painting, putting a thread in the needle, etc.
  • In case the nerves in the lower back are damaged, similar problems can be seen in the leg muscles too.
  • Weakness in the hands can also be caused because of pressure on the blood vessels in the neck and collar area. 

What is the maximum weight that women should carry on one shoulder?

Parag: Ideally, the weight of the handbag / shoulder bag should range between 2-3% of the person’s body weight. Also, while carrying the bag for a pronged period of time, it is advised to switch the bag to the other shoulder frequently in order to avoid constant pressure loading on one shoulder.

Dr Patel: Anything between 1.2-1.8 kg is ideal. Try to restrict the weight to 1.5 kg. Adding even a few 100g and stretching it to 2 kg is pushing the limit. 

What steps should one take if they have neck and shoulder pain due to these heavy bags?

Parag: Here are some tips you can follow:

  • Select a handbag that is proportionate to your body size.
  • Consider a shoulder back-pack or roller bag if you are required to carry heavy load frequently.
  • Do not wait to seek professional medical treatment for persistent pain or discomfort. One can avoid any serious, long-term damage or injury by addressing these problems in the initial stage.
  • While vanity may lure you to follow unhealthy trends, it is important to realise that your health and body come before them.

Dr Patel: Get rid of the cause of the problem i.e. the heavy bag.

  • If you have to carry a bag, keep it the within the weight limit by not stuffing it with unnecessary things.
  • Do some gentle stretching and strengthening exercises for the shoulder and neck muscles like swinging your arms, rolling your shoulders, shrugging, turning the head from side to side, etc.
  • Whether it is a small niggle or severe pain, it is best to consult an expert like an orthopaedic doctor or a physiotherapist.

While vanity may lure you to follow unhealthy trends, it is important to realise that your health and body come before it. 

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