Handbag health hazards

May 14, 2012 at 5:15 p.m. ET

Your keen fashion sense (or your tendency to carry your entire office with you) may be causing you physical pain. Here's why you should lighten your load and how to do it.

Woman with her handbag

If you've been experiencing back or neck pain and don't know what's causing it, the culprit may be your handbag. How's that?

Well, look at the purse itself. These days, the hottest styles often come with thick (sometimes braided) handles, large locks and other heavy hardware and details, all of which make the handbag heavy as ever — and that's when the bag is empty! Filling it with all your stuff and then carrying it on one shoulder or in one hand all day, it's no wonder your balance is thrown off, causing strain to your back, shoulders, neck or wrist!

Also, our habits have changed. Used to be you could leave the house with just your wallet and keys. Now, with our busy lifestyles, we feel we have to keep with us our cell phone, makeup, iPad, laptop, files from the office, snacks and more. You might even have a spare pair of flats in your handbag too so you can change out of your heels.

So how can you lighten your load and ease your pain?

Edit down your essentials

Give your everyday must-haves a ruthless edit. Decide what you simply cannot live without on a daily basis. Do you really need your foundation and blush and brushes on you at all times? Carry only the lipstick you're wearing that day (not the six you currently have in your bag), and switch to a packet of blotting papers (lighter in weight than your compact or tube of primer). Plus, do you even get to use your iPad much during your commute to the office? If not, leave it at home. If you like to read novels on the subway, upload an e-book to your e-reader rather than lug a hardcover around with you.

Choose handbag styles that are easier on the body

One that keeps your body centred and in balance is your best bet, and the style that best suits this purpose is a backpack. The two straps keep you upright, and the weight is more evenly distributed than when you use a shoulder bag. Messenger-style or crossbody bags are also easier on your body (with your shoulder and hip each bearing some of the weight), and luckily this style of bag is currently on trend. Lastly, if you commute and must have your laptop and files with you to and from the office, you may want to consider a rolling bag.

More health tips

Your high-heel habit could be hurting you
Flat-belly foods
Is your workout a waste of time?

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