Lately I have become very aware of the bags that people carry around the city. I know as a New Yorker, sometimes you leave your apartment in the morning and don't get home until late in the evening. You wind up carrying lots of extra things around with you simply because you don't have time to go home in between all of your engagements. Did you know that this forms a compensation pattern in your body that can and will give you discomfort? Here are two examples of bags that are getting in the way of optimal gait and two options to remedy the bag situation.
The most common bag is a one shoulder bag that's big enough to fit whatever you might need throughout the day. In theory this is great because it's simple, but it ends up wreaking havoc on your body. Say you put your bag on your right shoulder and you hold onto it with your elbow flexed and your hand up by your shoulder. The weight of your bag can make the muscles on the right side of your torso shorten while the muscles on the left side will lengthen. In optimal gait, your arms should swing evenly with your thumbs forward. This allows you to engage your obliques to get that rotation. When one side is being depressed and that same arm is taken out of the equation, those right external and left internal obliques aren't able to engage. Over time, the position you are holding your right arm in can start to squeeze the nerve giving you tendinitis in your wrist, carpal tunnel, loss of sensation in the fingers, or more congestion in the front of the shoulder which will then give you shoulder pain.
The other popular bag is the cross body bag. I see men carrying their gym bags like this as well as women with purses large and small. Let's say you put this on your left shoulder and the bag sits at your right hip. This will not only lower your left shoulder, but will also give your torso a rotation towards the weight on the right. This effects the obliques and more importantly the spine. And that's just from carrying a one shoulder bag!
Option 1: Carry a backpack with both straps instead of a one shoulder bag. I know back in the day this was kind of dorky, but backpacks are in style now. There are a variety of them from sporty to more refined for those of you who need a more sophisticated look.
Option 2: Carry even weight on each side. If you have a heavy load, split it up between two bags with one on each shoulder.
If you are someone who normally carries a one shoulder bag that's heavy, pay attention to how your feet are connecting with the ground. Are you stepping harder on one foot than the other? Is that the same side that your bag is on? If not, then there is most likely an injury (an old ankle sprain, knee injury, or hip issue) that hasn't healed. Check in and be present with your body so that you can keep the positive patterns in and the compensation patterns out.