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Is your bag breaking your back

ASK anyone who works in an office whether they’ve got back, shoulder and neck pains, and the answer is almost always a “yes”.

Many modern-day women are spending too much time seated, mostly in front of the computer, which is bad news for our spine and back. To top things off, we are also carrying heavier loads than before, whether in terms of responsibility or physically. Little wonder, then, that cute little totes of yore are now losing out to larger work-bags that are not unlike Doraemon’s magic pouch!

Apart from the mandatory items such as a purse, mobile phone, office, house and car keys, make-up and business cards, many single ladies carry around a laptop or tablet, foldable umbrella, magazines, work files, portable hard drive and mints. Working mothers are worse – on top of the same stuff their single counterparts have, their bags could also contain crayons, toys, water bottles, snacks, a small first aid kit, diary, book and more.

This does not include the other bags that contain extra children’s clothing, shoes, gym attire, towel, and a thousand other bits and pieces that add together to weigh a tonne! Among them all, laptops and working devices are usually the heaviest. One common resultant symptom is tension headaches caused by pressure on the muscles at the shoulders and neck. Some people experience tingling and numbness in the arm, but attribute it to poor blood circulation.

For heavy loads, a backpack is able to balance out the weight well between your two shoulders.

In severe cases, some women actually dislocate their shoulders or suffer from scoliosis from carrying heavy loads, often in ill-fitting bags or awkward positions. Women with weak bones are also at higher risk of developing kyphosis (hunchback) or osteoarthritis over time.

What is a good weight for your bag then?

Generally, you should not be hauling around anything more than 3kg for long periods of time. However, this is not easy for today’s busy women who have 101 things to attend to in a single day.

How then can you lighten the load? Try these tips:

Remove non-essentials

The first thing to check is your coin pouch – most times, we inadvertently carry around more spare change than necessary. Empty them into your coin box every other week.

Other things to let go are excessive keys, key chains, credit cards, loyalty cards, make-up and work files.

Distribute the weight

Instead of stuffing everything into one sling bag, spread them out into smaller hand-carried bags according to categories, such as one bag for gym attire, another for everything work-related, including your laptop, and another for your children’s stuff. Leave all the extras in your car and carry only what’s needed.

Switch sides often

OK, so carrying a load is something unavoidable as part of your job or daily routine. If that is the case, make it a habit to change sides every 10 minutes so that you don’t over-burden one part of your body all the time.

Carry it right

Bags with short handles can be transferred from one hand to another to distribute the weight, while bags with long handles are best slung over the shoulders. Avoid carrying your bag in the crook of your arm as it could result in elbow injuries. Carry two small bags instead of one big (heavy) one.

Get a backpack

They’re not exactly the sexiest bags in town but they balance out the weight well between your two shoulders. Still, you need to be careful not to overload your backpack or you’ll end up with shoulder, back and neck pains.

Carry a spare

Have a smaller bag for bare essentials such as your mobile phone, purse and car keys when going out for lunch or short distances.

Get organised

Go through your bag every night or every other day to clear any excess. You’ll be surprised how many non-essential items are following you around every day!

Choose weight-friendly bags

Don’t just buy based on how the bag looks – chose medium sized bags with wider straps. The larger the bag, the bigger the temptation to carry more stuff around.

Consider getting bags with wheels

If your job requires you to lug around a whole load of heavy things such as equipment, files, product samples, brochures and more, a small luggage bag with wheels will save your back from potential damage in the long run.

Unsurprisingly, many women who need to travel a lot for work listed carrying heavy things as one of the major reasons they leave their job. You need not resign; just find ways to manage that (bag) weight problem!

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