Physical Therapy: Like Santa, you’re probably carrying around heavy bags this time of year

Get in shape to carry those heavier packages in winter.

As the weather gets colder we not only want to prepare ourselves for the physical demands of winter activities, but also the daily stresses we may encounter.

You may notice that as the temperature drops your purse, bag, briefcase, or suitcase weighs a bit more. Whether you are carrying your mitts, hats, scarves, extra layers, or ski equipment, it all seems to add up, until eventually the neighborhood kids are expecting to see you and your bag in their chimney.

Although these items may be necessary to haul around there are a few things you can do to reduce the stress the new weight places on your body.

Why is this important?

A heavy bag sends extra pressure through your arm thus causing the muscles in your neck, shoulder and elbow to work harder than normal. To add to the problem, this pressure also lengthens the muscle, which places it in a mechanically disadvantaged position.

You end up with weak elongated muscles that are required to hold extra weight. Over time this stress on your muscles may lead to injury and pain.

If the bag is heavy enough, the weight can pull your shoulder downwards, putting extra pressure on the brachial plexus, or the bundle of nerves that travels through your neck and shoulder.

If these nerves are compressed you may experience symptoms of a condition known as thoracic outlet syndrome, which include pins and needles, numbness, or heaviness in your arm.

To prevent yourself from developing shoulder, arm and neck pain or relieve your current symptoms, the load you are carrying should be reduced and the muscles that allow you to elevate your shoulder should be strengthened.

One of the most significant changes you can make is to carry a backpack instead of a purse or briefcase.

A backpack distributes the weight between both arms and places the load behind the body. It decreases the amount of shoulder depression and promotes a more neutral posture.

You will want to make sure that the straps are tight enough to pull the bulk of the weight towards the upper part of your back as carrying the weight too low can hurt your lower back.

If you need to carry your bag in one arm, find one that crosses your body since this also distributes the weight to both sides of your body.

A bag with a thicker strap places less direct pressure on the joints and tendons on the top of your shoulder. Switching the arm on which you carry your bag will also help to prevent muscle length and strength imbalances.

Just as you train your leg muscles before the ski season you can also train the neck and arm muscles you use to carry a bag.

Here are a few suggestions.

Start with a shoulder elevation exercise in which you bring your shoulders up to your ear, holding for a few seconds, then slowly releasing.

You can make this harder by holding dumbbells or soup cans in your hands.

If you are ready for a challenge, try an above the head shoulder press in which you lift your arms up over your head with your thumbs touching at the top. Slowly bring yours arms back to your sides trying to control the movement of your shoulder blade. You may also use weights with this exercise but try not to use a weighted bar as this does not allow you to keep your head in a neutral position.

Although these exercises and tips can help you prevent and manage symptoms associated with carrying a heavy bag, if you are experiencing symptoms such as numbness, tingling and heaviness of your upper limb you should contact your local healthcare professional for further evaluation.

Just Posted

Okanagan Wildfires: An afternoon update on wildfires and evacuations

A Sunday afternoon look at the major wildfires impacting the Okanagan and Similkameen.

BC Wildfire merges Mt. Eneas and Munro Lake fires

Large plume of smoke seen over the fire was a controlled event

Motorcyclist taken to hospital following crash near Vernon

Extent of injuries not yet known following motorcycle in ditch on Commonage Road Sunday, July 22

All-Indigenous teams break new ground, making BC Games history

This is the first time there have been dedicated Indigenous teams at the BC Summer Games

Lower Mainland teams battle for baseball gold at BC Games

Vancouver Coastal squeaked out a 3-2 win against Fraser Valley

The Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw people signed an agreement-in-principle with the B.C. government

The signing ceremony, at the Eliza Archie Memorial School, was 25 years in the making

Canada to resettle dozens of White Helmets and their families from Syria

There are fears the volunteers would become a target for government troops

Francesco Molinari wins British Open at Carnoustie

It is his first win at a major and the first by an Italian

Government sets full-time salary range for Justin Trudeau’s nanny

At its top range, the order works out to a rate of $21.79 per hour, assuming a 40-hour work week

Mediation talks break off in casino strike

Gateway and BCGEU have no new date set for mediation

ZONE 2: Okanagan twins bring ultimate competition to the BC Games

Brothers Connor and Holden Berrisford are each other’s main motivators

Most Read