That fabulous handbag may be causing pain and damage to your body

Take a look at how large handbags cause unwanted damage — and what you can opt for instead — for fashion and health.

You have a thing for bags. The bigger the better, right? Sure, a big, fabulous bag might be able to hold everything you want to carry with you, but all that extra baggage is doing a number on your body.

Take a look at how large bags cause unwanted damage — and what you can opt for instead — to fulfill your fashion and health aspirations, brought to you by the Arthritis Foundation and Norton Orthopedic Institute.

The effects of a large handbag on your body

Tension headaches

Pressure on muscles in the back of the head and shoulders can cause tension headaches.

Chronic neck pain

Nagging pain down the neck, across the top of the shoulder blade and over the arm can be caused by the body leaning in opposite direction to help offset by the weight of the bag. Tension on the side with the load begins to compress the joints, inflame the muscles and irritate the nerves. Ouch! Over time this can cause chronic neck pain and spasms.

Poor posture

The shoulder holding the weight of the bag rotates backward and is constantly being raised. This begins to irritate muscles in the upper back, shoulder blades and supporting the spine, causing spasms. These fatigued muscles also cause poor posture in the form of slumping in the shoulders and spine.

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Damage to back and spine

Over time, poor posture can lead to arthritis in the vertebrae and degenerative disc disease, which causes nerve pain among other problems, sometimes requiring surgery. In addition, the vertebrae in the lower back are compressed from being crunched on the side carrying the weight and extended too far on the other side.


While walking, the arm carrying the weight can’t swing naturally, which keeps the body balanced. That means you are unsteady and it takes greater effort to move forward. The nerves in the arm can also become irritated from the pressure of carrying the bag. Carrying a bag in the crook of the arm can lead to tendinitis and bicep fatigue.


Changes in the way you walk due to carrying a heavy load can lead to arthritis in the hips. The greater the load, the more pressure on the joints.

Damage to hips and knees

The body compensates for the heavy load by taking shorter steps, putting extra pressure on the knees as they work harder to move you forward. Throw high heels into the mix and forget about it. You might as well start saving now for knee and hip replacements.

The right way to carry a handbag and keep your body healthy

Cross out pain

The best way to carry a bag is diagonally over the shoulder and across the body. Adjust the straps to minimize the bag’s swing.

Avoid arm overload

Don’t carry bags in the crook of your arm (at the elbow). Instead, carry a small bag on your shoulder (ideally across your body).

Switch up bags and position

Give up the big bag for the smallest one possible that can be carried on your shoulder. If you can’t cut down on the contents of your purse, consider carrying two small bags instead of one larger bag. Switch the bag often from one shoulder to the other.

Work out when you step out

Focus on keeping your abdominal muscles engaged (think about sucking in your belly button toward your spine), your shoulder blades down like you’re pushing them toward your buttocks, and your weight centered over your feet.

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