Baggage and back pain: What’s the connection?

Everyone has their own baggage, and it usually includes the phone, tablet, laptop, notebooks, makeup, toiletry bags, lunch bag, change of clothes, change of shoes, etc. The list can go on and on.

Each of these items adds weight to your shoulders and back that may be causing that inexplicable pain you’ve been feeling. And if you have kids, your list of items and the weight they add is doubled or tripled.

Dr. Bruce Moseley, an orthopedic surgeon at Baylor College of Medicine, says that shoulder pain from carrying the weight of a heavy purse or bag is a common phenomenon.

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“When you put a strap across one shoulder that bears a heavy load, all of the muscles that connect your shoulder blade to your spine strain to hold that weight up,” Moseley said.

These muscles include your trapezius, levator scapula, rhomboid, and other muscles around your chest and it is common for this group of muscles to be overused and become a source of pain.

“Those muscles get stressed from day-to-day activities, but it can get worse when they are tasked with carrying a lot of weight,” he said.

Although women may be more susceptible to this pain from carrying bulky purses every day, men can also suffer from shoulder and backaches due to burdensome bags. Women, however, are more likely to bear weight on one shoulder due to the types of purses and bags they carry.

To alleviate this, Moseley suggests using bags, such as a backpack, that distribute the weight evenly over both shoulders.

Another alternative? Simply take things out of the bag and make sure that the weight is bearable and doesn’t cause discomfort.

But if you can’t stand to be without all of your daily necessities, home remedies such as massages, light stretching, over-the-counter pain relievers, and even a glass of wine can help ease that end-of-day tension felt in the shoulders.

If those remedies aren’t helping, you should consider seeing a doctor to get properly evaluated.

Dr. Moseley is program director for the Sports Medicine Fellowship in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Baylor. Learn more about orthopedic care at Baylor or call (713) 986-6016.

-By Melissa Tucker

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