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Back To School Blunders: The dangers of big bags

by Claire McFarland, blogger

Are your school bags of the Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen proportions, or are you feeling dragged down by your large textbooks? Check out these six Big-Bag Syndrome cures to help get you through the semester!


Make sure your workouts include not only the core muscles of the lower back and abdomen, but also the shoulder blades. The “penguin” exercise, proven to be effective by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neil Elattrache, works both on dry land or in water. Keeping upper arms at sides, elbows bent 90 degrees, start with palms facing, almost touching. Slowly bring both hands out to the side, pressing shoulder blades back as you press them together against resistance; then return to the starting position. Try two sets of 10 repetitions every day for results.


This is the most important thing to look at when carrying weight on the shoulders. The ideal stance you should aim for is to have shoulders relaxed, back, and down, and not to lean to one side. To see how balanced you are, Elattrache suggests sitting in a chair and looking straight at the wall. Do you have to cock your head back? If so, it means you have some work to do. Sit up straight and put a little arch in your back, and your neck doesn’t have to bend. One way to remind your body of proper alignment is to place a round pillow against the small of your back when you sit. Positive posture habits can help you not only when carrying your books, but also while studying and sitting in class.


You can improve and stabilize your posture without even thinking about it— try slowly rotating your shoulders while sitting at your desk or watching TV. Do up to 10 repetitions at a time, to both strengthen and help build awareness of tension in the neck and shoulders.

Switch It Up

You can still carry your big bag some times, but try to alternate styles, pack less into it, or carry a smaller bag. Elattrache says there are issues with any kind of bag and suggests not sending yourself into a shoulder rut by carrying the same thing. Variety is the spice of life!

Steady Your Strap

If your bag has a strap that rides diagonally across your body, you’re in luck. This type of bag helps distribute the weight more evenly across your body. When your back is securely fastened, you will not be as likely to hike your shoulder to balance it. Plus, attempt to switch sides to avoid putting more tension on one shoulder.

Pain No Longer Equals Beauty!

Warning signs that you may be on your way to a big-bag injury include an ache in the shoulder blade area and frequent neck stiffness. Headaches and pain radiating down the arm are also symptoms. If you’re noticing these signs, and icing and resting do not help ease your pain, try switching to a backpack to alleviate your pain. If it still persists, grab a very small wallet, your cell phone, and car keys. Kiss your purse goodbye for a day and head for the orthopedist’s office.




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