Ergonomic Shoulder Bag

Why is an Ergonomic Shoulder Bag important? What is the 'Handbag Syndrome'? Is your laptop bag ergonomic for you? How can we ensure we're not harming ourselves with the load we carry everyday?

Most of us carry our belongings in a bag, briefcase or purse. Most of these bags has a shoulder strap.

While it keeps our hands free to do other things, carrying a heavy load can cause stress to our spines. They throw off our posture, pinch the nerves in our neck and shoulder, hindering circulation and vascular flow.

The 'Handbag Syndrome'

Why are heavy bags a cause of shoulder and neck aches?

ergonomic bag shoulder
Image via Flickr Storem

Inevitably, we seem to be needing more these days. Multiple phones, wallet, camera, steel water bottle etc.

Though this 'handbag syndrome' was coined after women, men who carry heavy laptop bags and briefcases are affected too.

Even if we have a favorite purse carrying position, this may be harmful to our health. Switching positions every half an hour helps us not 'cut' off the circulations of our arms.

The neck has a natural curve that evenly distributes pressures on the spine. When one carries a heavy bag for a long time, this natural curve gets distorted which leads to chronic neck, shoulder, back pains and sometimes headaches.

Over the long run, it can accelerate serious injuries such as herniated discs and degeneration of the cervical spine.

Invariably, this causes poor posture as well.

What bag is too heavy for your shoulder?

Bags should not weigh more than 3 kg or 6.5 Ibs (pounds). Re laptop bags, don't forget to include the mouse, charger and other laptop accessories. Adding them up, it can weigh too much!

Ideally, you should not carry more than 2.5 lbs or 1 kg everyday.

Don't be 'fooled' into thinking that all you need is an ergonomic shoulder bag.

Ergonomic shoulder bags that are too heavy can STILL change the bio mechanics of the neck, back and shoulders and cause dysfunction.

If you are already suffering some pain and discomfort, please see a Physiotherapist. These health professionals can help you analyze and detect ways to improve your posture, or study how your head sits on your shoulders and suggest change or recommend ergonomic exercises.

Ergonomic (Shoulder) Bags Tips
(to reduce shoulder ache and back pain)

How To Choose a Bag that's Good For You.

This applies to ergonomic laptop bags as well.

  1. Choose a handbag that is proportionate to your body size (this rule applies in elegance and fashion as well!).

  2. Preferably, choose a lightweight bag to best minimize the weight you are carrying around.

  3. Don't purchase a big bag, you'll only be tempted to fill it.

  4. Alternate shoulders by switching the bag from side to side.

  5. Do not slump your shoulders when you are carrying your bag on your shoulder. It adds to the strain.

  6. Don't let your bag cause you to lean to one side.

  7. Your ergonomic shoulder bag should not interfere with your motion.

  8. Use a bag with padded straps to help distribute the weight and pressure across your shoulder

  9. Go for wider straps.

  10. Reduce the load you carry around by constantly 'editing' your wallet, purse or bag. Carry only the bare essentials.

  11. If you must carry an item, try to get the travel size option.

  12. If you can, try to carry smaller bags.

  13. Pick the bag that allows you to alternate carrying on your shoulder, around your wrists or by using its handles.

  14. Leave your loyalty cards in your glove compartment of your car or a 'shopping' bag (bag that you use when you go shopping)

  15. If you cannot seem to reduce the weight of your bag to about 6 lbs (3 kg) or less, consider a backpack. A backpack is more of an ergonomic bag since it distributes the weight between your shoulders.

Ergonomic Shoulder Bag, Handbag, Purse Ergonomics

A lady told me that she only realized the cause of her back pain and stiff neck was because of her heavy book bag after her exams were over. She was used to carrying those heavy textbooks around on her left shoulder, in a shoulder book bag. Obviously it wasn't an ergonomic book bag.

Once she resumed her small handbag for everyday activities, her pain instantly vanished.

Of course, being a writer of this Ergonomics website, I told her that it could also because she stopped sitting at a computer desk all day, and went out and about doing things, like how the human body was designed to.

There are some websites recommending a certain type of ergonomic shoulder bag, namely an ergonomic messenger bag. It is usually in the shape of a teardrop sling shoulder bag. However, I haven't found substantial evidence that it should be the best ergonomic way for us to carry our possessions.

Thankfully, the kindle and the Ipad, and other ebook readers are growing in popularity. We may never need to carry a heavy book again!

Before You Buy Your Child's Bag

Chris Adams, who writes for tells us that recent studies showed 64% of children suffer from back pain due to overloaded school bags or backpacks.

He recommends:

  1. to avoid single strapped bags, satchels and duffel bags. And to get those backpacks with two padded straps, since there is a better distribution of the weight.

  2. Keep them lightweight

  3. And ensure tney are the right size for your child. See the Fitting Guide for A Child's Backpack.

  4. Many compartments is better than none (for a steadier weight and reduce dynamic stress).

  5. And one with a strap across the chest. It helps prevent slippage and load shifting. It also fights the urge to slouch.

References: Coreconcepts Woman's day Pain free Purse Carrying

Go back to Home Ergonomics.

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