In middle school, I thought that having one of those rolling backpacks was the epitome of coolness. (It wasn’t.) While everyone else schlepped around their canvas messenger bags, I proudly wheeled my rolling backpack through the hallways. Nowadays, I favor a leather tote to carry around my work supplies. But that is basically the worst thing I could be doing, according to Jonathan Leary, DC. (The chiropractor also tells me that a rolling bag is best for your back, but we’ll get to that in a moment.)
“In this day and age, we spend a lot of time hunched over our computers typing, eating at our desks, texting, the list goes on. The problem here is that we are always contracting the body in a forward motion, which causes all of our postural problems to increase,” explains Dr. Leary. “The more our posture is affected, it will lead to lower back or neck pain.” You exacerbate this pain when your bag—like my aforementioned leather tote—isn’t balanced on your body.
But the worst offense he sees is something I am also guilty of: choosing the biggest bag possible and carrying around you entire life in it. (How am I supposed to flirt with cute single guys at the coffee shop I work at if I don’t have a travel makeup bag, quarters for laundry, and the CVS receipts from my last 10 trips there on hand at all times?) “The bigger the bag, the bigger the problem,” he says. “Toting a heavy load over one shoulder, versus evenly spread out over both shoulders like with a backpack causes your body to have a tendency to slouch to the dominant side.”
Your backpack should also have a chest and/or waist strap. But again, how am I supposed to flirt with cute single guys with a literal chest and waist strap on? (In the backpack sense, wink face.) I mean, I guess potentially it could increase my chances because they might be like, “Oh she’s gonna have excellent posture when she’s older, better lock that down.” I’m not sure I want that to be the determining factor in someone wanting to date me, but never say never.
So shoulder bags are the worst for your posture, followed by a cross body bag. “Anything with uneven weight distribution will essentially lead to more muscle imbalances as your body compensates for the weight distribution,” says Dr. Leary. That’s why backpacks or a rolling bag are best.
If you are unwilling to give up your favorite shoulder or crossbody bag, not all hope is lost. Leary says to carry less baggage around with you, in the physical sense. “From time to time, empty your bag of unnecessary items,” he says. And take care of your body when you’re not carrying a bag. “Take the time to stretch, use a foam roller to get the kinks out, align your body through gentle movement classes and correct your posture,” he says. “Educate yourself on how to best care for your body.” Dr. Leary’s wellness club, Remedy Place, opening in Los Angeles in October, will offer alignment classes where guests can learn about the seven elements of balance from one of our rebalance specialists, he explains. If you’re not in LA, you can find a mobility class near you, or opt for an online class. At the very least, foam roll. And maybe pare down your purse lip balms from 12 to two.
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