Dr. Nikki Porteus

We're always discouraging kids to carry heavy backpacks and to use both straps... but what about the way adults are carrying purses and wallets?

Most women carry a purse of some sort, and on average they weigh more than 6 pounds. In addition to that, the bigger the purse, the more likely it is to exceed 6 pounds. Walking with a heavy purse slung over a shoulder can dramatically alter a woman's gait. Consistently carrying a purse on the same shoulder can also cause postural changes that result in upper back, neck, and shoulder pain.

Men typically carry a wallet in their back pocket. While this doesn't cause a problem during walking and standing, it can cause a great deal of problems if the wallet remains in the pocket while sitting. Sitting on a thick wallet puts pressure on the priformis muscle, which directly crosses the sciatic nerve and can cause a great deal of low back pain. In addition to placing pressure on the muscle, the wallet also causes unleveling of the pelvis. Unleveling of the pelvis results in postural problems and muscle imbalances, leading to pain and chronic problems further down the road.

For women, make sure the purse only contains the absolute essentials! Anything extra is just adding extra weight and stress to the body. It can also be beneficial to alternate which shoulder the purse is carried on. This will prevent the body from constantly leaning to one side or the other and also gives the shoulder a break.
For men, placing a wallet in the front pocket or in the pocket of a jacket or sweatshirt is a good alternative. This allows for the pelvis to be in a neutral and level position as well as prevent unneccesary pressure from being placed on the prirformis and sciatic nerve. 

If you have questions about your back pain or would like to learn more on ways to reduce spinal stress, click here.

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