Is your purse or briefcase the culprit of your neck and back pain?

There’s a sneaky reason why many people experience shoulder, neck and back pain.

In today’s culture of being on-the-go, we tend to pack our briefcases, purses and other bags to the brim with food, clothing, electronics, and a myriad of other items. This added weight against the body can cause pain and discomfort, and a person may not even know their bag is the culprit.

As a physician, I try to get a sense of the demands that a patient is putting on their body to determine where the pain is coming from — often I find it stems from a carrying item.

In order to prevent further damage and future pain, there are a few things that patients can consider when choosing the right bag.

The best type of bag to consider would be a rolling bag on wheels. But I know that these options are not very fashionable, nor easily used for city streets, so I’ll be realistic. The next best bet is an option that kids use daily and adults have recently touted as a fashion accessory — a backpack. When choosing a backpack, It is important for the bag to have two thick straps that distribute weight evenly on the back.

If you choose to use a single strap purse or briefcase, make sure the strap is thick and can easily be shifted from one arm to the other, or be positioned across the entire body.

If it is necessary for you to carry multiple bags, try to split the items up to make sure the weight is distributed evenly on your body. Carrying 50 pounds on one arm will be sensed very differently by the body than carrying 25 pounds on each arm.

Often the weight of the bag is not the only thing causing problems. The ergonomics of a bag can cause pain too. Look for bags that make it easier to retrieve the items you need and do not require you to bend your neck or arm in an uncomfortable way.

Surena Namdari, M.D., is an associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, and director of shoulder and elbow research at Rothman Institute at Jefferson.