Most people assume musculoskeletal injuries come from one traumatic event, like throwing your back out while shoveling. However, many of the injuries I’ve treated in my practice are not the result of one single incident but years of bad postural habits that eventually led to injury. A great example of this is carrying a bag to and from work.
Since posture dictates how your body functions, bad posture means you’ll have bad functionality. Now, that’s not to say carrying a bag back and forth from work is bad — but it is a problem to carry your bag poorly. It can lead to a stiff neck, headaches, shoulder pain, and back pain. So how do you avoid injury? Make sure you are carrying your bag the right way. This means supporting your body efficiently and engaging your postural stability muscles (lats, abs, and glutes) in order to protect your joints and spine.
- Hike your shoulder blade towards your ear. This leads to increase upper trap tension, causing neck pain, headaches, and shoulder pain.
- Slouch. Engaging your abs and lats will protect your low back from the increased stress of carrying a heavy load.
- Always carry your bag on the same side. You will end up overusing the muscles on one side of your body and create imbalances throughout your body.
- Try to carry too much at once.
- Keep your shoulder blades down and back if you carry a bag on one shoulder. This will allow your core to do most of the work.
- Maintain an upright posture. This allows you to engage your lats and glutes, two of the largest muscles in your body, rather than your smaller, weaker muscles.
- Switch sides frequently. Evening it out will keep your body balanced.
- Make sure your load is manageable. If it’s too heavy, maybe try swapping out your briefcase for a rolling bag.
If you already feel the effects of carrying a bag incorrectly, you might be tempted to switch bags. If that is the case, there are some exercises you can do to reverse the effects. These exercises will help put your shoulder blades back in the right position.