Backpacks, laptop carriers, day luggage... these bags all help us carry around essentials for school or work. However, when we rely on them daily, we’re also putting more strain through our back, neck, and shoulders than we may realize. The result for many students and work commuters alike is rather undesirable: chronic shoulder pain.
If you fall into this category, don’t just accept chronic pain as a part of your busy life. It’s simply not worth it, and will likely only get worse over time if it’s neglected. Instead, focus on the strategies and treatment that can help give your shoulders a little extra love without completely ditching the bag. That’s precisely what we’re diving into in this article.
The Impact of Heavy Loads on Your Shoulder Health
It’s important to understand why the load that you’re lugging around daily is causing so much harm. The truth is, these kinds of injuries don’t just happen. Rather, they tend to creep up over time, making them more difficult to spot because of their delayed onset.
Nonetheless, when we carry a heavy bag on our back and shoulders, we naturally lean forward to support the weight and to keep our balance, sometimes rounding our shoulders forward. This change in posture has a ripple effect on our body– it puts stress and pressure on areas that aren’t built to support the added strain. One day of this may not amount to much, but when this new, altered posture becomes the daily norm, the impact begins to add up.
Common Injuries That Contribute To Shoulder Pain— And How to Treat Them
There are a variety of injuries (and setbacks) that can come as a result of consistently carrying too heavy of a load on your back and shoulders. The most common ones include:
Misalignments in the spine and extremities
Thoracic outlet syndrome
Of course, we harp on consulting with a medical professional as you can’t customize your treatment until you have an accurate diagnosis. That said, the following four treatment approaches are good entry points to support better overall shoulder health.
Take A Load Off– Literally
We’ve all heard the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The same applies to your health and wellness.
If you have chronically bad shoulder pain and yet are continuing to lug around the same heavy loads, you’re a big part of your own problem. As a general guideline, your bag shouldn’t weigh more than 10% of your body weight. Yet, many of us tip the scale upwards of 30% with our day bags! We understand carrying some equipment with you each day is likely a detail that you can’t avoid, which is where many people get caught in an unhealthy cycle thinking there’s no way out.
Our advice: take a second look at all of the items that you’re actually carrying daily. It’s easy for pieces to accumulate in your go-to day bag that don’t necessarily need to be there yet add weight to your load. In particular, scrutinize your heavier items– book weight adds up quickly, so only carry what you absolutely need. If you’re a student, try to print off photocopied pages of specific chapters before class, instead of subjecting yourself to the full weight of a large textbook for the entirety of a day. Or consider purchasing the digital version and viewing on an electronic device instead. For working professionals– are there certain items that you can leave in-office? This could help you cut down on both the load that you’re carrying and also help you transition between work and home life more efficiently.
Pay Attention To Time
Reducing the amount of weight that you’re hauling around is an important step, but even so, your shoulders shouldn’t be in carry-mode all day long.
Our advice: take frequent breaks. Reduce the overall time that you absolutely need to be carrying your bag. Can you leave it in an office or locker between certain meetings or classes? Are there days in which you may not need your bag at all? Scrutinize your reliance on your bag and try to find opportunities to cut down on its use.
Watch Your Form
It’s not uncommon to throw a bag or backpack over one, dominant shoulder. However, the repeated stress on one side over the other generally doesn’t bode well long-term and can both cause postural damage and perpetuate shoulder pain.
If you use a backpack, wear it correctly with a strap on either shoulder and the bag cinched to just above your hips. Alternately, if you rely on a single-strap laptop type of case, try switching sides to even out the distribution of weight and stress over time. Or, different still, consider a bag on wheels that takes the load completely off of your back.
When you continuously carry heavy loads with your shoulders, a common response is to tense up a bit under the strain of the weight. Over time, this strain can lock up your shoulder area, and limit your range of motion, further contributing to the overall pain and discomfort that you’re already experiencing.
Bring more mobility back into your shoulders by incorporating some basic exercises into your day. There are some great, free yoga videos that specifically address shoulder and neck mobility– use them! Alternately, try working in some wall extension exercises and cross-body shoulder stretching.
Though fairly basic in nature, these exercises all accomplish an important detail: encouraging mobility in your shoulders in a gentle, conservative method.
The Role of Chiropractic in Shoulder and Neck Health
Another great, conservative care treatment option to help with shoulder and neck pain is chiropractic care. Misalignments in the spine and extremities happen as a part of everyday life, though carrying heavy loads with your back and shoulders certainly doesn’t help the situation! At the time, you may not notice these seemingly small misalignments; however, when left untreated, they can contribute to increased pressure, nerve irritability, and overall discomfort that can leave your shoulders aching.
Chiropractic care corrects these misalignments through the use of gentle adjustments of the neck, spine, and extremities, thus guiding your alignment back to a normal and healthy placement, and allowing your body to heal more effectively. These adjustments can help to both curb chronic shoulder pain, and also help you better care for your shoulders and overall health moving forward.
Don’t continue to put off your shoulder health. Schedule an appointment online or call (949) 380-8883.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.