The latest fashion faux-pas that we’re identifying is nothing to do with how you match bold colours and statement stripes… it’s all to do with your accessories – the bag.

For Physiotherapists, bags can be a big cause of problems – they are carried constantly, from home to work or school, they are often carried on one arm, in a ‘fashionable’ way, which leaves the body unbalanced, and they are often far heavier than is ideal.

When we have a patient in with back pain, one of the things we ask is about what activities they do, what they carry about, and I can honestly say that I have never had one include their handbag, laptop bag or school bag in the list – despite them often weighing in at over 4kg!

The trend for carrying handbags in the crook of your elbow results in you lifting your shoulder all the time, causing compression between that and your neck, which in turn puts your spinal alignment off to one side.

Rucksacks, even when carried on one shoulder, rather than the elbow, have a similar effect, as they are often much heavier than handbags. If you’re bent to one side before you’ve even moved anywhere, how are you going to walk in a straight line?

As I said earlier, as these bags are often carried for considerable lengths of time, the damage builds up and can then take a while to undo – most of the problem is getting yourself out of the bad carrying habit, finding a safer way to carry it (or buying a different bag) and then trying to rebuild the muscles in a balanced and even way.

By the time people come to us, they’ve been having niggles for a couple of months, and they’ve ignored it… but eventually, the niggles turn into chronic pain – which is why they come to see us. All because of a fashion faux-pas!

Even if you’re not having problems with your back yet, stand in front of the mirror (and make your kids do this too) and look at yourself with your bag… do you stand up straight or are you bent to one side or jutting a hip / shoulder at an odd angle? If it looks like your alignment isn’t what it should be, then do something about it – before the pain forces you to!