Apr 8 2016
Why big purses and high fashion may be causing your back and neck problems
Go ahead and take out your bathroom scale. But instead of stepping on it yourself, we’re going to do something different today. Fetch the purse or handbag that you carried to work or out to do errands with you yesterday and put it on the scale. How much does it weigh? 8 pounds? Ten? Fifteen?
The reality is that purses and bags women are carrying around these days are bigger – and heavier – than ever, and that’s causing some huge health problems. Chiropractors and doctors even have a name for this serious health issue – The Pocketbook Effect.
The weight of just a purse might seem inconsequential, but consider that you carry it and hold it sometimes an hour or more every day while walking or standing. It’s no wonder that half od working Americans report having back pain, which we spend $50 billion collectively to treat and try to remedy each year. In fact, the number one disabler of people 45 and younger in the U.S. is lower back pain!
Why your purse is hurting you
What happens when you carry a purse? With all of the weight unevenly distributed on only one strap, the burden of the purse causes asymmetry in the body, particularly in the neck, shoulders, and spine.
Independent studies that surveyed 1,000 women who regularly carried purses found that a significant percentage suffered pain or health problems in these areas:
What happens to the body when we carry a purse?
It’s not just bearing the weight of a purse that is debilitating; it’s the alteration to your natural walking gait. When you shoulder a purse on one side, it throws off your natural walk with arms and legs swinging fluidly and evenly.
Over time, that puts your muscles at a severe imbalance, altering your posture. This puts more stress on the dominant shoulder (women tend to carry bags on their dominant shoulder, so on the right side if they are right-handed), causing the muscles – particularly the trapezius muscle – to become bigger.
It also causes the muscles in the spine to compensate for the extra weight, which often sends the opposite side of the spine into a spasm. That spasm can affect your supporting muscles and especially your lower back and sacrum (bone at the base of the spin,) causing stiffness and undue tension.
The long-term burden of carrying a heavy purse:
Due to that tension, stress, and spasm, women who carry heavy and/or ill-fitting purses or handbags often develop:
Arthritis in the neck
Scoliosis (curvature of the spine)
Full-blown degenerative joint disease in predisposed shoulders
Upper-back (trapezius) and neck (cervical paraspinals) muscles strain
Numbness and tingling in the arm from nerve microtrauma
What you can do to fix the Pocketbook Effect:
Switch shoulders periodically to avoid undue strain on your dominant side and balance the effects. You can remind yourself by switching every block or some similar system.
Pull a bag on wheels if you can’t avoid significant weight or you’re using it for work, travel, or the gym.
Texting or looking down at your phone while carrying your purse really compounds the damage, flattening out the natural curve in your neck.
Look for bags with wider straps, which distributes the weight over a larger surface area and reduces strain exponentially.
Wearing the bag diagonally (the strap resting on the opposite shoulder and the bag on the hip) helps the trunk bare most of the weight and protects the back.
Try not to carry your bag in the crook of your elbow because this will quickly cause tendinitis.
Make sure the straps of the purse fit your body correctly. If the bag sits too high up or too low, it will alter how you walk, bumping in your hips or stomach as it swings, and take you even more out of your natural gait.
Even better, try to use bags that have different strap options that let you hold it on your shoulder, adjust it for cross-body carrying, or hold it by the handles.
Reducing the weight of your purse:
Health professionals recommend never carrying around more than 10 percent of your body weight, and less than half of that for one-strap purses or bags.
According to studies, these are the biggest and heaviest items in women’s purses:
The cumbersome wallet.
Women often carry a wallet inside their purse, filled with heavy coins and way too many credit cards, gift cards, receipts, etc. Believe it or not that weight can really add up, so empty it out every night and take only what your really need for the day in a small wallet.
Huge key chains.
Unless you’re a janitor, you probably don’t need to carry an enormous snakes nest of a key chain. All of that metal starts to add on weight so go lighter and make two or three key chains that you can grab for different occasions.
Coupons, receipts, and business cards.
But aren’t these things just paper? They are, but that’s why we underestimate them when stacking them into our purse. Have you ever carried around a book? Those are made of paper, too, and they can get pretty heavy!
All of those plastic, glass and metal bottles, tubes, containers take up a ton of space and can easily add up to several pounds.
Some high-fashion purses and bags are ridiculously huge and cumbersome these days, especially designer brands with weighty zippers, studs, and the like. Of course you want to look good, but is insignificant fashion really worth long-term health damage and injuries? I’m sure you can find a purse that is light, comfortable and functional – and looks good.
Sep 23 2016
Why don’t many Indigenous cultures suffer back pain?
If you’re like most Americans, then you suffer back pain at some point in your life. Maybe you’re part of the 33% of the population that is afflicted by chronic back pain, or the 50% of working Americans that feel a twinge, ache or pull in their back or neck each year. In fact, it’s one of the most prevalent ailments and exacts a huge toll in lost productivity, sick days, loss of quality of life, strain on relationships, and other health problems. While chiropractic care should be on the front line of treating back pain, too often the traditional medical establishment pushes highly addictive painkillers and risky surgeries.
But back pain is just a part of life and getting older, right? Believe it or not, back pain isn’t necessarily an inherent condition for all human beings. Incredibly, research now reveals that plenty of indigenous cultures throughout the world suffer little or no back pain!
Not only do people of these cultures experience almost no troublesome or chronic back pain, but research shows that the discs in their spines display very little signs of degeneration as they age, as well.
This epiphany started when a woman named Esther Gokhale from Palo Alto, California was stricken with her own debilitating back pain. For two decades, she consulted doctors, was on prescriptions and had surgeries, but none of it seemed to help. So when doctors urged her to have yet another risk or even dangerous spinal procedure, she look abroad for answers.
What she found was that many people from Indigenous cultures around the world suffered little or no back pain. She traveled all over the globe for the next ten years studying how these people stood, walked, worked and rested, as well as other diet, fitness and lifestyle factors. What she found was remarkable:
“I have a picture in my book of these two women who spend seven to nine hours everyday, bent over, gathering water chestnuts,” Gokhale says. “They’re quite old. But the truth is they don’t have a back pain.”
From Ubong tribesmen in Borneo to indigenous tribes in India; from the mountain tribes of Ecuador to villagers in West Africa and natives to tiny fishing towns in Portugal, she found that these people’s spines were essentially a different shape than most people in the west and America.
People in these indigenous cultures had spines that were shaped more like the letter “J” with a straight drop from neck to base and then a natural curve at the buttocks. Conversely, if you look at the typical American spine, they are usually shaped more like the letter “S” with a hump or curvature at the top of the back, too.
“They have this regal posture, and it’s very compelling” Gokhale said.
After taking note and comparing many other factors, Gokhale found that people with this J-Shaped spine rarely suffered back pain. But it’s not that these indigenous cultures had something different – it was the typical American spine that had changed over the decades. When she looked at anatomical drawings from Leonardo da Vinci or a Gray’s Anatomy book from 1901, she found that spines didn’t have that S-shape then, either, but were closer to the J-shape indigenous cultures now display.
It seems that a J-shaped spine is the natural and healthier human form.
“The J-shaped spine is what you see in Greek statues. It’s what you see in young children. It’s good design,” Gokhale says.
So what has changed with our western or American spines that is causing so much back pain and discomfort?
Further research concluded that a sedentary lifestyle, as we sit at desks and in car seats and office chairs and the like far more, could be a major reason why our spines are more S-shaped now. The lack of physical labor, mobility, and even recent phenomenon like “Text Neck” from people looking down at their smart phones so much are also contributors to reshaping our spines – for the worse.
While Gokhale’s research was comprehensive, it was mostly anecdotal, and there hasn’t been a real scientific or medical study into this theory of natural J-shaped spines among indigenous. But that doesn’t mean that scientists aren’t interested.
“I’d like to go and take X-rays of indigenous populations and compare it to people in the Western world,” says Dr. Praveen Mummaneni, a neurosurgeon at the University of California, San Francisco’s Spine Center. “I think that would be helpful.”
Mummaneni believes that it’s actually stronger abdominal muscles in indigenous and more active natural cultures that grant them perfect posture and protect their spines from back pain and acute degeneration.
But for most Americans, that strong physical culture has been replaced by sedentary one and overeating – and that means a lot of extra weight and belly fat, resulting in an S-shaped spine.
“If you have a lot of fat built up in the belly, that could pull your weight forward. That could curve the spine,” notes Mummaneni. “I think the sedentary lifestyle promotes a lack of muscle tone and a lack of postural stability because the muscles get weak. And people who are thinner probably have less curvature.”
It looks like getting back to basics with correct posture, a healthy diet, active lifestyle with lots of exercise, and regular chiropractic care can replicate the conditions of these indigenous cultures and result in a straighter, healthier spine without regular back pain.
If you’re suffering from back pain or any other discomfort in your back, neck or limbs, contact us to find out more!
By Norm Schriever • Chiropractic Treatments, General Health News, Health and Wellness, Pain Management, Uncategorized • Tags: Back pain, back pain relief, chiropractic Sacramento, chiropractor Sacramento, indigenous cultures and back pain, neck pain