Can carrying a heavy purse cause shoulder damage?

Shoulder Pain

Not all cases of shoulder pain are caused by sports injuries or traumatic events like car accidents. Oftentimes, it’s caused by something simple, like carrying a heavy bag.

But could carrying a heavy purse or messenger bag cause severe enough damage that you would seek shoulder pain treatment?

Well, yes, in some cases.

In this article, we’ll explain some common causes of shoulder pain. We’ll also dive into what you can do for pain relief.

What causes shoulder pain?

The shoulder is a complex ball-and-socket joint that allows for greater freedom of movement than almost any other joint. But if any of the bones or soft tissue that make up this mechanism become inflamed, pain can ensue.

Common shoulder problems include:

  • Issues of the rotator cuff joint.
  • AC joint pain, also known as a separated shoulder.
  • Labrum tears, which are common in people who throw overhand.
  • Arthritis in the shoulder joint, which can limit range of motion.

While carrying a bag over your shoulder won’t necessarily cause any of these conditions, it can lead to increased pain if one of these conditions already exists.

The danger of a heavy purse over your shoulder

When you place a heavy bag over your shoulder, you are asking your shoulder to bear the full force of that weight. Because purses generally go over one shoulder, they cause uneven weight distribution. This can affect your posture and cause pain in the neck, back and shoulders. In addition, the constant strain on the muscles can lead to inflammation-causing shoulder tendinitis.

What about backpacks?

Heavy backpacks are another common cause of shoulder pain, particularly in school-aged students. Experts estimate that there are nearly 2,000 backpack-related injuries every year, and that 85% of college students have pain or discomfort due to backpack use.

What you can do help alleviate the pain

The shoulder was not meant to bear the weight of a heavy bag slung over it. Stuff tends to accumulate in bags, so it is a good idea to go through it often to see if there is anything that can be taken out. Is there a lot of change at the bottom of the purse? How many receipts and coupons have been sitting in there for months?

If you do have to carry absolutely everything in your purse, switch which shoulder carries the bag to reduce the stress on either shoulder. Also try using a lighter fiber bag instead of a heavier leather bag.

Physical therapy can help in the long term (we’ll get into that more in the next section), but you might try ice for temporary pain relief. It can help reduce any inflammation that’s happening in your shoulder, which will take some pressure off your nerves and reduce your pain.

Experts recommend that when carrying a heavy purse or backpack to carry no more than 20% of your body weight. When carrying a backpack, always use two straps, as carrying your bag with one leads to uneven weight distribution (similar to a heavy purse).

Physical therapy for shoulder pain

In severe cases, physical therapy can help reduce the muscle soreness and tendinitis caused by carrying heavy bags over your shoulder. A physical therapist will teach you stretches and exercises that can help to alleviate your pain, and they’ll also help to correct any problems in your posture or the way you carry your bag that led to your pain in the first place.

Your physical therapist may also use manual therapy techniques to relieve your pain. In other words, they’ll physically manipulate the joints and soft tissue in your shoulder to release any tension.

Call Border Therapy Services to see if physical therapy is right for you

If your shoulder pain has become too much to bear, call us at Border Therapy Services. One of our physical therapists will assess your symptoms and develop a personalized plan to help treat your shoulder pain. Contact one of our friendly staff today to set up your initial appointment.