How often do you really stop to consider how your fashion choices are affecting your body? Sure, when your new boots rub your heel into a blistered mess or your shoulder gets sore after carrying a heavy tote bag around all day, you become more aware of these choices. But in the interest of educating ourselves even further on the bags we carry every day, we turned to someone who knows a lot more about the physical effects of our sartorial choices than we do: a chiropractor.
Just because we fall head over heels with a new bag trend doesn’t mean that all of these new styles are doing our back, neck, and shoulders any good. PSA: Some bag trends are doing bad, bad things to our back, according to L.A.-based chiropractor Gopal Cabrera. The doctor weighed in on the eight top handbag styles of the moment, sharing which he’d be overjoyed to see you wear—and which he cringes at the thought of.
We should note, however, that instead of taking these as hard guidelines to follow, it’s better to consider each as suggestions when reaching for the same bag style each day. While Cabrera advises strongly against a handful of the season’s top bag trends, that doesn’t mean you should burn them upon reading this; use your best judgment. That said, if you’re hauling the same bag around town day in and day out, wouldn’t you want to know whether or not it’s killing you slowly? Okay, maybe not killing you, but still. Keep reading to discover and shop the best bags for your back.
WHAT NOT TO WEAR: HANDHELD MINI BAGS
“Handheld bags are usually never a good idea since not only will you increase the tension in the muscles of your back, neck, and shoulders, you will also increase tension in your elbows, wrists, and hands. As you walk around it will also throw off your natural gait, or the way you walk.”
WHAT TO WEAR: FANNY PACKS AND BELT BAGS
“The features that make these bags a winner in my book are that the bags themselves are small and held very close to the body, and this allows for less stress to occur on the joints of the spine and the postural muscles that have to keep your spine upright. Furthermore, it will decrease the chances of one side of your body getting tenser due to fatigue and spasms from that side doing all the work. Also, these types of bags allow your arms to move freely during walking, which makes them great for long walks around the city.”
WHAT NOT TO WEAR: CHAIN-STRAP BAGS
“Chain-link straps and thin straps, in general, have the tendency to start to dig into your shoulders and may start to get painful over time, especially during summer months when your shoulders are exposed or covered by something minimal like a T-shirt.”
WHAT TO WEAR: DRAWSTRING BAGS
“The ability to hold these bags across your body will allow you to distribute the weight in a more symmetrical manner, and since they are usually smaller in size, it should keep the load relatively light. The only problem is the straps themselves are very thin and may start to dig into your shoulders as the load gets heavier.”
WHAT NOT TO WEAR: TOP-HANDLE BAG (WITH NO CROSSBODY STRAP)
“As stated before with the handheld mini bags, these are generally not a good idea. These types of bags get an even worse ranking since the increased size most likely means you’ll be carrying around more weight as you can fit more things inside of them. The heavier handheld load will increase tension from your hands and wrists to your shoulders back and neck. If you don’t change hands often then, this may lead to asymmetries in your musculature and an over-tightening on the side that you carry the bag on. This may lead to wrist and elbow problems as the forearm muscles have to activate to control the weight and may also lead to shoulder and neck issues as your arm gets pulled to one side. Also, they will most likely lead to muscular compensations from your lower back to your upper back when you walk since your arms won’t be able to swing freely.”
WHAT TO WEAR: CROSSBODY BAGS
“These types of bags have a lot of positive things going for them. Since you can wear the bag across your body, it will help distribute the weight more symmetrically, which will lead to a decrease in postural strain throughout your neck, back, and shoulders. The wider adjustable strap will be more comfortable on your shoulders and will allow you to find the most comfortable height for the bag to hang at so it doesn’t disrupt your natural gait. As long as you switch shoulders from time to time, this is one of the best choices you can make for your back, especially when it comes to longer walks or travel.”
WHAT NOT TO WEAR: OVERSIZE TOTE BAGS
“As you probably know by now, when it comes to bags, especially ones that hang off one shoulder, the rule of thumb is usually the smallest the better. The increased weight hanging off your shoulder may cause your upper trapezius muscle to start to shrug as your shoulder adapts to the increased load. Since this muscle attaches onto the base of the skull and extends the whole length of your neck, it has the potential to cause not only neck pain but also tension headaches, and over time with increased use can lead to a straightening of the natural backward C–shaped curve in your neck. This change in shape alters the weight distribution on the discs, putting more pressure on the joints leading to inflammation, osteoarthritis, and nerve compression.
WHAT TO WEAR: SMALL SHOULDER BAGS
“Smaller bags are generally better for your shoulders, back, and neck since their size limits what you can fit in them, and this should help decrease the weight you’ll be carrying around. The problem is you will still be getting an asymmetrical load distribution since the bag hangs off one shoulder or is carried under your arm (most of the time it’s the dominant hand shoulder or arm) and will create more tightening in the muscles on the side where the bag is carried. If you don’t switch shoulders to help distribute the weight on either side evenly, then this will create a muscular imbalance.”